Ben arrived in Adelaide from China on a hot summer’s day to begin a Civil and Environmental Engineering Masters program at the University of Adelaide.
After also completing a Masters in Project Management, he was snapped up by the Adelaide office of global infrastructure and engineering specialists Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB).
PB has long had a policy of attracting talented professionals who are able to bring an international understanding and dimension to the business. Ben fitted perfectly.
“Firstly as a Chinese overseas student and now as a professional, I can help Australians to know China better and also help the Chinese to better understand Australia,” he says. “I believe my background will be to my advantage in helping to facilitate business between the two countries.”
PB’s Regional Manager SA, Nick Flanagan, says Ben has quickly become a valuable member of the organisation’s Energy, Mining and Industrial business group, both in SA and interstate.
Firstly as a Chinese overseas student and now as a professional, I am helping Australians to know China better.Ben Zhao
“We’re an international organisation and interfacing more and more with China, particularly in WA but also here in SA through a number of junior mining companies with Chinese backers,” Nick says. “Ben is able to provide a level of cultural awareness and depth of knowledge that Australians just don’t have.”
Nick says Ben’s dual language skills allow him to research both Chinese and Australian websites to ensure joint-venture companies are issuing consistent messages. “And because he has a double degree and is now a mature-age graduate, he’s not afraid to cross all boundaries in terms of doing work for PB’s other national business groups,” Nick says. “He’s really enthusiastic – he’s got a thirst for learning and trying new things.”
Ben used a simple process of elimination (combined with a quest for excellence) to choose Adelaide as his overseas study destination. The UK and Canada were too cold. Australia, with its quality universities and nice weather, was perfect. But which city?
“My education agent in Beijing said I’d love the University of Adelaide – it had such a good reputation in my preferred field of engineering and had produced Nobel Prize winners,” he says. “So I looked it up on the internet and decided that Adelaide was the place for me.”
He says Adelaide’s mix of multicultural diversity and Anglo-Saxon heritage allowed him to cultivate his English language skills while also fostering the global mindset that was quickly put to use in his job as a civil engineer for PB.
“I’m from a big city so I wanted to try something different – that’s why I decided to study overseas,” he recalls. "Beijing will always be my home but Adelaide has definitely become my second home.”
Ben has been so impressed with Adelaide that he’s already begun recommending the city to family and friends back home – the daughter of one family friend is now studying at the University of South Australia.
“Adelaide is such a different cultural experience – the atmosphere is so friendly and supportive,” he says.
“At the University of Adelaide they supported me to do my own research, sometimes make mistakes and find them out for myself. There’s a lot of independence – they cultivate students to think innovatively which is excellent when you finally go out into the workforce.”