Purvinder Chohan’s career in civil engineering has taken him from Portsmouth, to London, Riyadh and Melbourne. Now working on the Metro Tunnel Project, he spoke about his career and what it’s like moving to a new job in Australia.
How did you start your career in infrastructure?
I did a civil engineering degree at Portsmouth University and then worked for almost 20 years on large projects in the United Kingdom, including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the Jubilee Line extension, London Olympics and Crossrail.
Civil engineering is a good profession as you get to work on large Infrastructure projects, but you also have the opportunity to work overseas as the skills and knowledge are easily transferable. After working in the UK, I took up the opportunity of working in Saudi Arabia on the Riyadh Metro Project.
And now you are working in Australia?
When I worked on the projects for the London Olympics, I worked alongside an enormous contingent of Australian and New Zealand engineers, and it gave me a taste of what life would be like in Australia. Not just the work, but the country and the culture, and I thought it would be a great thing to experience.
While I was in Saudi Arabia, I found the opportunity to join CPB Contractors via Linkedin. I followed it through and accepted this position in Melbourne. The whole family came over from the UK in 2019.
I’m the Design Manager on a Rail Network Alliance Project doing rail systems as part of Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project.
What was it like to move countries?
It was hassle free. CPB Contractors helped deal with immigration and that was all handled smoothly. The logistics of moving was also well organised. The removalists came in, packed everything up and arranged the transport. It was all stress-free and it was impressive to see it so well handled.
My wife and kids are happy and enjoying being here in Melbourne. The eldest was accepted into Monash University and the youngest one took a few weeks to settle into a new school and life in Australia and now is well settled. Obviously, we miss the family back in the UK, and because of covid there have been no trips back, but we are looking forward to catching up with family this Christmas.
What is different about working in Australia compared to the UK and Saudi Arabia?
The first couple of months was a bit of a transition as I got used to the different terminology and systems, but after about eight weeks I was settled in and could really contribute to the Project.
There is a great team ethos here. The workforce is diverse, both culturally and in terms of experience. That is something you get in Australia that you might not get elsewhere.
I’ve been working with very senior, experienced people as well as younger people who are super motivated and enthusiastic. They come from all cultural backgrounds.
Through CPB, I’ve also been involved in CareerSeekers. This is a social program to assist refugees from Afghanistan and other places build their careers in their new country. It is heartening to see how Australia helps these people. It is something that other countries could learn from and shows what an open-hearted country Australia is.
What about the life away from work?
The environment is great and the beauty of Australia is amazing. We’ve been to Tasmania and I really enjoyed the hikes and the outdoors. It is a big country and you might be surprised at how far you end up driving. The family whinge a little about my enthusiasm for the national parks, but the countryside is brilliant. We’ve been to Adelaide and up to Sydney to see friends. We’ve recently taken a trip to the Alpine region in Victoria and managed to go tobogganing in the snow.
Do you have advice for other people thinking about Australia as a career option?
I’d definitely say to anyone who has even a hint of interest, to go and try it. You have got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
We are looking at this as a permanent move and have started the process to acquire permanent resident status, and it is great to have CPB’s support for that. But even if you are only thinking of coming for a few years, then the experience is worth it.
The amount of work in the pipeline definitely makes it worthwhile. No matter where you are coming from you will find it a welcoming place. You will gain massively from the experience – both professionally and personally.