Johnny Archer – Doha, Qatar
A valuation surveyor, Johnny qualified in Ireland in 2007 and spent a year in London with EDF Energy, before moving to Lisney in Cork, where he worked for nine years. Economic conditions in Ireland, and a desire to try a new challenge, led Johnny and his wife to consider a move.
“A friend of mine who had spent a number of years working in the Middle East recommended life here. I put my CV on an international jobs website, and was contacted by a recruiter about my current position.”
Johnny has been based in Doha since June of this year; however, it hasn’t taken long to get up to speed.
“There is a close expat community here, which helps socially and professionally.”
Johnny works with Asteco, one of the largest property firms in the Middle East with over 150 employees. The company has offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jordan and Qatar, and services include valuation, property management, sales and leasing, development consultancy and research.
“My job includes providing clients (usually banks) with valuation reports on a wide range of properties including new office towers, shopping centres, hotels, apartment blocks and residential compounds. We also provide advisory reports to clients on development sites.”
Even though he has only been there a short while, Johnny is thoroughly enjoying life in Qatar.
“It is refreshing to see so much development, and I am getting a fascinating insight into some amazing projects. There is also an attractive quality of life here in Qatar, even if some of the cultural differences take a bit of getting used to. There is a vibrant social scene among the expat community – the first lesson I learned is that one of the best ways to network is over a pint at the Rugby Club!”
It’s early days to miss home, especially with FaceTime and Skype making it so much easier to stay in touch with family and friends. And immersing yourself in a vibrant property market is a big help.
“The economy in Qatar is benefitting from, and being driven by, the country’s enormous gas reserves. The pace of property development is phenomenal as the government focuses on preparing for the FIFA World Cup 2022. There has been a huge influx of qualified professionals, with engineers and quantity surveyors to the fore. There are currently only a handful of valuation/general practice surveyors in Qatar, as valuation work has traditionally been carried out by locally licensed valuers. Recently, however, the larger commercial banks have recognised the value of international valuation standards and are increasingly looking for Red Book valuations. I would expect to see an increase in our numbers in Qatar as the market matures.”
Rita Carney – Melbourne, Australia
Rita graduated in property economics (valuation surveying) from DIT in 2007, and qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in 2010. She worked for Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) in Dublin for five years before moving to Australia. While in Dublin, she was based in the Retail Department, focusing on shopping centre and high street leasing and rent reviews.
“I was fortunate to work with a talented and hardworking team, which provided me with a solid base of knowledge.”
However, she felt that a move abroad would help her to gain valuable experience and progress her career, and had always wanted to visit Australia, so a year and a half ago she made the move to Melbourne.
Rita works in the Asset Management Department of Knight Frank Australia. She has recently been promoted to Associate Director of Retail Asset Management, having originally joined the company as a Senior Property Manager.
“I look after my own portfolio of 70 retail units and two 8,000sqm office buildings. I also guide other members of the Retail Property and Asset Management team with their portfolios, and work with the Director of Asset Management on ways to develop and grow our retail asset management department.”
She has no regrets about the move.
“Resigning from my position at JLL was a tough decision to make, and finding a job and somewhere to live in a new city, and learning the characteristics and legislation for a new property market, takes time, but this move has allowed me to reach the level I wanted to achieve for my career, and I am thoroughly enjoying life in this bustling city.”
With 23 million people living in Australia, it is a much bigger market than Ireland.
“Every Australian employee pays a minimum 9.25% contribution of their monthly salary as ‘superannuation’. Therefore, there is a constant flow of capital from Australian Super Funds into commercial property assets. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are also active and established players, and Australia benefits from a high volume of foreign direct investment from high net worth Asian investors.
“While Australia was lucky not to hit recession over the past few years, the prevalent sentiment among consumers is still generally one of caution. Like Ireland, retail has been the hardest hit sector in the global financial crisis. Rents are still exceptionally high in prime shopping centres and demand for these locations remains strong. Australians are cautious with spending at the moment, due to the weakening of the Australian Dollar and the general global economic uncertainty, as well as the general election in September. International retailers are now pushing online sales, often with free postage to Australia, and testing the market for potential entry, following brands such as Topshop and Zara, who are expanding further into the market after initially entering Australia in 2011.”
Michael Creedon – Brisbane, Australia
Michael finished his degree in Limerick in 2003 (Heriot Watt degree course), after three years of study in Cork and a year of work experience with PJ Hegarty & Sons, and achieved his APC in 2007. He moved to Bowen Construction Ltd in 2011, but economic circumstances in Ireland led him to think of making a change.
“I decided to move abroad and get experience in the oil and gas industry. I flew to Australia in June 2011 for two weeks and got two job offers. The one that most appealed to me was with Clough, a major engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, as they had extensive contracts both in Australia and Papua New Guinea.”
Michael remained with Clough for a year before moving to Brisbane, where he currently works with Wasco (Australia) Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Wasco Energy group based in Kuala Lumpur. Wasco is an EPC and operations and maintenance service contractor, as well as an engineering/pipe coating and manufacturing/exploration and production services company.
“We are relatively new to the Australian market, but have a solid base in South East Asia and a presence in the Middle East. I work as a contracts manager for the group. Our projects include the construction of high-pressure gas pipelines for the Queensland Curtis Liquid Natural Gas (QCLNG) and Gladstone LNG (GLNG) projects here in Queensland. I am also heavily involved in setting up the company and have taken the lead on many complex tenders, ranging from micro LNG plants, compression supply and install, and pipeline construction, to operations and maintenance contracts.”
Michael is thoroughly enjoying work and life in Brisbane.
“The work is excellent. I work closely with two fantastic directors who give great support. The lifestyle here is terrific; the country is built for the outdoor life and has fantastic facilities for children and families.
“I miss friends and family, but I don’t miss the economic side of Ireland in the slightest. I do miss the cultural side, as Australia lacks a lot of the history, music and traditions that Ireland has in abundance.”
The oil and gas industry has its challenges.
“The oil and gas industry is still quite strong in Australia; many projects are live and will run into 2014-2017. There is quite a bit of uncertainty as to the viability of Phase 2 for many of these projects due to the high cost of labour, high carbon taxes, the presence of a Labour government, foreign competition and uncertainty regarding the Asian markets for gas supply. In many ways Australia is like Ireland before the global financial crisis: a high cost of living, high labour costs and overinflated property prices are not a good sign for the future. Mining has suffered a downturn here, mainly as a result of the cost of doing business, as big clients are now investing heavily in countries that have cheaper labour and are less regulated.”
Brendan Fitzgerald – Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE
However, the downturn in 2008 changed his plans.
“There was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the construction industry in Ireland. I had always wanted to gain some international work experience, and the prospect of an adventure in some other part of the world appealed to me.”
He decided on the Middle East as his destination, and is currently based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while living in Dubai and working for Turner & Townsend International.
Brendan’s job has given him the opportunity to work on a range of significant projects.
“Since I moved to the Middle East I have had the opportunity to work on some large and complex projects, including the ASAB full field development (oil and gas), the Globalfoundries wafer fabrication facility (semi-conductor), Lusail city, Doha (infrastructure), and the Dubai International Airport phase III expansion.
“I am currently working on the Abu Dhabi Airport Midfield Terminal, providing estimating, risk management and scheduling services to the client. When completed, the terminal will be approximately 700,000m2. The building will be constructed using approximately 69,000 tons of steel, more than 680,000m3 of concrete, and nearly 500,000m2 of steel and glass cladding, 135,000 tons of reinforcement, 360,000m2 of suspended ceilings and 325,000m2 of natural stone flooring.”
He’s enjoying life in the East, although it has its challenges.
“Contrary to popular belief it’s not all about lounging around on the beach! The lifestyle is very different to Ireland and the working week is much longer. Temperatures in the summer can reach close to 50 degrees so time spent outdoors is limited; however, the offset of this is a very pleasant winter climate. All in all I am enjoying the lifestyle and working environment, although I miss the natural green environment of home, family and friends, and maybe a decent pint!”
He feels very positive about the market in Dubai.
“Following a period of uncertainty between 2008 and 2010, stability and confidence has returned to the market, with recovery led by large-scale infrastructure projects. Dubai’s potential to host Expo 2020 (results to be announced in November 2013) will provide further stimulus to the construction market. Within the region, large-scale projects in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman are providing continued economic development. Many of the schemes within the area are government funded and the stable price of oil is key for continued growth.”
Marc Hamilton – Perth, Western Australia
Between 2006 and 2008, he also worked for Sisk, before moving to Bruce Shaw from March 2008 to June 2010. Foreign climes beckoned, however.
“My girlfriend (now my wife) and I decided to do 18 months’ travelling around the world but only ended up making it half way round and staying in Perth!”
After three years in Perth, Marc now works as a Senior Contracts Administrator on the Perth City Link Rail Alliance, working for the John Holland Group, which is the largest construction company in Australia.
“The City Rail project involves lowering the existing rail line running through the centre of Perth to create another underground line, thereby creating a development deck for future mixed-use developments. The project also includes the upgrade of the existing central train station. The project value is in the order of $360m and is being designed and constructed through an alliance between the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia, John Holland and GHD (the designers).”
Marc’s role is a varied one.
“My role is effectively the same as a traditional Irish main contractor’s senior surveyor position, as I am required to manage the procurement process for all subcontract packages (approximately 280), manage subcontractor payments, claims and variations, and also deal with all main contract scope changes and forecasting.”
Marc and his wife are enjoying work and life in Perth.
“Work is going very well and the lifestyle in Perth is excellent. Generally the weather is good, which allows you to have a far more ‘outdoorsy’ lifestyle. Obviously both myself and my wife have most of our family at home, which is the biggest thing we miss, but at the moment it is manageable with Skype and Facebook, etc.”
He feels that the industry in Western Australia is in a period of transition.
“When I first arrived three years ago the industry was going very well and is still going relatively well; however, there has been a bit of a slowdown in the last year. This is a result of the slowing of the mining activity upon which the success of the economy in Western Australia is heavily dependent.”
Niamh Keane – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Niamh graduated from DIT Bolton Street in 2008 with a BSc (Hons) Valuation Surveying, and worked part-time for O’Shea O’Toole & Partners in Waterford City, in the residential department. However, 2008 was not a great year for the property sector in Ireland, and Niamh wanted to try something new.
“I decided on a work and travel gap. Abu Dhabi is often referred to as a gateway to the Middle East and is a great base for travelling. I also saw the potential for using my surveying degree here when I was ready.”
Niamh has now been based in Abu Dhabi for five years. Initially working as an English teacher, she eventually decided to refocus on her career, and used her BSc in surveying to enroll with Heriot Watt University in 2011 and complete a Masters in Construction Project Management through the Dubai-affiliated campus.
“I am currently working for Knight Frank. The office opened in the UAE in 2010 and currently has six departments that cover valuations, commercial leasing, research and consultancy, commercial investment, residential sales and industrial.”
Niamh’s role involves working in a number of areas.
“I focus mainly on the valuation of leasehold and freehold interests for a wide variety of assets including offices, industrial, retail, land and hotels, while also providing consultancy advice and research services. I work with a diverse client base including a number of government agencies, large funds, private investors and high net worth individuals. The valuations are for various purposes such as loan security, or acquisition or disposal.”
After five years, she still loves the Emirates lifestyle.
“Abu Dhabi is a great place to live. The sun is always shining and there are always exciting things happening. There is a great expat community, and a wide variety of different nationalities and cultures.
“The downside to living abroad is that you have to accept that you can’t be present for all the special occasions you would normally be there for. I also miss the Irish sense of humour and banter.”
The market in the UAE is a challenging but rewarding one.
“The UAE is an emerging and slowly maturing real estate market, which has witnessed boom and bust. There has been huge inward investment in the last five years and the country is growing as an increasingly important trade and logistics hub and tourist destination. The market here is very opaque; information is not openly shared and institutional investment is relatively rare due to land ownership issues, short-term leases, and lack of planning controls. Investors are not particularly sophisticated and are very focused on short gains rather than long-term rewards. There are challenges to working in this market, but there are also great opportunities and experiences for growth on a professional level.”
Daniel O’Connor – London
Daniel completed a degree in property economics at DIT Bolton Street and graduated as a general practice surveyor in 2008. He began work with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) in Dublin as an intern in 2007 and subsequently as a graduate surveyor in 2008. Working in the valuation department, Daniel took the opportunity to become a Chartered Surveyor.
A move to the company’s London offices beckoned, and since 2011 Daniel has been based in Warwick Street, working as Vice President in JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group.
“While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Dublin, my main motivation for moving to London was the opportunity to work in the world’s most active market for direct commercial real estate investment. The move presented me with the opportunity to work on transactions of a scale not regularly seen in Ireland. It also provided me with exposure to a wide array of international clients and, indeed, future prospective employers.”
Daniel works in the Northern European Transactions team, which specialises in the sale, acquisition and financing of hotels across Northern Europe. It’s a busy and varied job.
“As my role is a Pan-EMEA one, I have been lucky enough to travel a lot and have been involved in hotel sales in Amsterdam, Krakow and Sofia. The majority of my time, however, is spent in London, where I was recently involved in the £301.5m sale of the InterContinental Park Lane. I am currently busy working on two further InterContinental hotel sales in Europe, along with the sale of the Marriott Grosvenor Square in London’s Mayfair.”
He is enthusiastic about the attractions of London as a base.
“As a young person London is such an exciting and vibrant city to live in, it truly never sleeps.”
However, long hours and a high cost of living need to be borne in mind by those who are considering making the trip. Of course, Daniel misses many of the attractions of home.
“I miss the friends that I had to leave behind in the Dublin property industry. There is a great sense of camaraderie in Dublin, which is hard to find in London. I also miss the occasional Guinness in O’Donoghue’s!”
Nevertheless, he is very much enjoying working in a vibrant market.
“The European hotel investment market is a relatively specialist segment of the wider European direct commercial property market, and is particularly buoyant at present, with approximately €10 billion of hotel transactions forecast to occur across Europe in 2013, a 20% increase compared to 2012. While JLL’s brokerage success varies considerably from country to country, we remain the market leader across the EMEA. Our market share over the last four quarters currently stands at €3.3 billion, 33% of the total transaction volume, which I am particularly proud of.”