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  • Ruth XiaNationality: Chinese
  • Age: 37
  • Field of study: Structural Engineering
  • Current employer: SBM Offshore
  • Current position: Senior Structural  Engineer

Why I started my career in the Netherlands
In the year 2016 there was no search-year visa. After obtaining an MSc from Delft University of Technology, a Dutch acquaintance kindly helped me to change my remaining study visa to a travelling visa. So I could get a taste of the world, before choosing a hope-to-be life-long career.
 
Struggling with the lengthy procedure together, we found it hard to part. As my English was better than his Chinese, we decided the best was to start my career in his motherland. 
 
That is how it started and continued till this very day.
 
A typical work week
During project preparations, the majority of work is in the office. Structural engineering is closely related to no less than three other disciplines. The clear interdisciplinary communication is essential to schedule-critical project preparations. At that time my work involves more meetings and discussions.
 
Once the interfaces are clearly defined. The structural calculations and analyses are performed following standard procedures, by either hand calculations or computer simulations. This is the work of structural engineers. Drawings and on-scale 3D interface models are prepared by our designer colleagues. Engineers and designers work closely together on solutions. Together we prepare the packages required by the construction team to start fabrication.
 
During the project execution, structural engineers act as a combination of filed engineers, purchasers and construction supervisors, which can include, besides the office work, measuring, testing, designing on site, even manoeuvring in the confined spaces.
 
Cool projects
Marlim Sul Helideck: after a collision, the helideck of FPSO Marlim Sul needed to be replaced. We, a small team of one project manager, one construction manager and one structural engineer, have successfully engineered and managed the helideck removal within an extremely tight schedule.
 
Working from 7-to-7 daily, we secured each step of the project, even predicted and proved the residual energy in the damaged helideck leg. Eventually, the leg movement was well under control during the removal.
 
Ekofisk field decommission: the execution plan was revised on site, based on the observations and suggestions of structural engineers. The schedule saving was estimated as half a week, at least.
 
The cost saving was in the range of hundreds of thousands of euros, since the construction vessel was none other than Thialf, the largest Dutch vessel and one out of the only four dual-crane construction vessels in the world.
 
What I like about the Dutch work mentality
Directness is definitely the top merit of Dutch culture. No energy and time is wasted in the blind guess work. That is the very thing we all need when approaching deadlines, which for sure happens often during projects.
 
The innovation spirit is also high in the Netherlands. Dutch engineering firms are flexible to the turbulences in the market. Additionally companies are generous on the technology investment. For example, the famous off-shore construction vessel PS was designed and constructed during the off-shore recession, when many companies only announced cost savings.
 
Punctuality and work-life balance are also two direct benefits for Dutch employees.
 
My career advice to you
Be open and honest!
 
You might be scared of the limited work experience after graduation. You might be concerned about the language and culture differences. I understand you totally. We have all been though the same. Please remember, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. The right opportunity may be waiting for you on the next turning.
 
Well walking toward your big day, please OPEN your eyes to learn from others’ behaviour, OPEN your mouth to speak the required languages and OPEN your mind to discover the charm of diversity.
 
When the moment comes, please present yourself as yourself. No more, no less. That is ALL you need to do.
 
Want to connect?!
You can contact Ruth.Xia@gmail.com. It is the same on Linkedin and Skype.
 
Frankly, I am not online much. Please do not be disappointed when replies do not arrive within a day. Well, the bottom line is: you can expect from me, my best and sincere support.