Unbearable Lightness Of Searching For Foreign Engineers – OpEd


Your writer was working in a JV company with a foreign partner in Turkey in the 1990s. We got a big boiler tender at an important iron-steel plant along the Black Sea coast. Our US-based JV partner gave us the first 10 major drawings of similar proven ref design that they had built elsewhere, at a price of US$ 60,000. They advised us to create a detail design in our engineering department.

We received their design manuals, and approximately 1m000 detail drawings would be drawn, moreover we would carry out purchasing, manufacturing and on-site assembly.

There was one important clause in the tender document. We were supposed to have an expatriate preferably an American engineer as construction site manager.

Having an expatriate US engineer as our foreign construction site manager would mean paying US$ 10,000 per month, plus living expenses, lodging, company car.

In those days I was had a monthly net salary of 2000 US dollars.

That was the top salary in our company for engineers.

Anyway, all design, procurement, manufacturing works have been completed, the boiler construction project has come to the stage of site assembly.

Our British expat general manager brought a resume one day.

A young American graduate living in Kentucky has just finished school. Whatever happened that summer as he traveled to Europe, on his way he dropped to Istanbul.

He has found a Turkish girl, first friendship then marriage. Then he started to look for a job to stay in Turkey for 1-2 years.

First he got a list of US companies who were active in Turkey. He reviewed the list and submitted a CV to each of those that he deemed appropriate, declaring that he was looking for a job to work.

He was almost 25 years old, with a mechanical engineering degree from a Kentucky university. He had no past experience. But he was an American expatriate.

We called him. He had an incomprehensible English. But no harm, he was American, with a valid US passport.

We renewed his CV, sent him to a barber to have a business style haircut. We purchased a black business suit on his back. Then we all went the customer’s factory. Of course, we already advised him, “Do not open your mouth, just say hello, how are you … Do not say another word.”

We introduced him. Here’s our American construction site chief from the USA!

The young US engineer stayed on site for 6-8 months. He got $ 4,000 per month. We rented a house and the company car. We advised him a crush course for site management.

He was at the construction site full time during the day, he wrote progress reports. Since he was a newcomer, he followed what we asked to do. He edited the site notes we wrote in English.

He made recording of the arrival and departure of the workers.

He was not involved in technical matters. The job was over. Our young engineer won a ref project to write in his CV.

In the meantime, his Turkish wife received her United States entry visa, they both went to the US. We finished the job at site, and received our completion certificate.

Similar situations were repeated in two separate assembly sites in Bursa. This time with an elderly foreign field engineers.

The first one was a foreign construction engineer, with good contract experience.

The other was an old German engineer. He did not even know how to use a computer. We wrote the site progress reports in English, he signed it, so it went on.

So do not insist on having foreign engineers in the field, see how it works. Because this is Turkey, and we have endless solutions.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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