Engineers In London And Brexit

Engineers in London and Brexit. I will talk about this argument with another engineer that is living Brexit from the inside. I am going to interview a really good friend of mine, which was also a colleague here Norway.
His name is Miguel Cabeleira, an outstanding Civil Engineer working now for the Nuclear industry in London. As for the other interview (see here), half of this post will be about his situation as an engineer in UK now and the other half about the aftermath of Brexit. Enjoy.

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Miguel. It took me two months to pronounce his name correctly according to Portuguese pronunciation.

Q: Miguel, tell to my readers a bit about yourself.

My name is Miguel Cabeleira. I’m from Portugal, graduated at the University of Porto – MSc. Civil Engineering. I worked as a structural engineer in Porto (Portugal), Kristiansand (Norway) and I’m currently in London. I’ve worked with buildings and the Oil&Gas industry and now I work in the Nuclear Energy Industry in the UK. For more info you can have a look at my Linkedin.

Q: And why you moved to UK?

My move to the UK was motivated by different factors. First of all, the Oil&Gas industry was going down fast and the market could not afford to keep all the engineers and all the industry running as it was, so I was considered redundant when the crisis started in Norway, as well as most of my colleagues. The company hadn’t enough work for everybody and more than half of the staff needed to leave the company. Even though I liked Norway a lot, after some time some cultural/social differences made me feel less interested in staying. Furthermore, I’ve always looked at the UK (and London specifically) as a center of different cultures, different industries to work on, and a fast paced moving city. One other factor that proved to be important is the language. I felt that I spoke English well enough to feel included and develop social/work relations. After my stay in Norway I experienced that the language has a very important role in order to feel good about your surroundings and to feel included where you are. In Norway, we spoke in English in the company, but as anybody can understand, it’s not the same as being fluent in Norwegian, thus you just can’t feel quite included as you wanted to. The job opportunities in a city like London are immense, not easy, but clearly there is a high demand for engineers and interesting projects to be involved with.

Q: Tell us a bit about your work and the process of moving to London. Any advice to future engineering immigrants in UK?

I’m currently working in one of the lead engineering consultancy companies in the world. Everybody is being very nice and inclusive. Working conditions are great as well as company benefits. I applied to different positions in this company and luckily I was accepted for a position in the Nuclear Energy sector, which is a very interesting area for me. I found this job while applying directly on the company’s website. However, I’ve heard that recruitment companies also work very well.

There wasn’t much bureaucracy when I moved. You have to register at the Job center and get a National Insurance Number. Other than that, the usual. Bank account, finding a place (which is going to be extremely expensive), etc. I do recommend the UK for people who want a new challenge abroad. It’s a fast moving country with lots to discover, not only work wise but also cultural and recreational things to do. London is a city that is used to foreigners. Decades of immigration, business, tourism, makes this city a world center, and thus, I don’t really feel like a foreign person in a foreign country, you feel as another bee in the beehive (if you consider that good).

Q: What were your first reactions when you realized that the UK was leaving Europe?

Brexit felt like a wave of sadness, for me, that swiped the country. The next day after the vote, it seemed the country was in a hangover, not knowing what it did exactly the night before. At work, everybody just kept on going business as usual. Of course, some talks and emails were sent about it, but a company as global as mine, dealt with this very well. Outside work, I haven’t felt personally anything yet. I feel that people are anxious and sad about it, especially in London. I know from the news that some immigrants received verbal attacks and offenses, but not to me or the people I know.

Q: Is your daily job going to be affected in the near and long future?

My company clarified that is going to be business as usual and that we have a duty to the client, whomever it is, regardless of the referendum results. My company also wants to protect its workers, which I found reassuring. But we have to wait and see how the work inflow develops from now on. Projects of the size of Nuclear power plants rely also on foreign investment, so we should expect some developments. There is climate of unrest regarding investment, everybody is just waiting. This is going to take a toll on the economy in the short/medium term.

Some people say that the UK won’t even leave the EU, some others that the deals with the EU will be almost the same as now. I really think that at some stage, every project and investment in the UK is being done with the utmost care due to this uncharted territory that the UK is going through. I think that the economy will feel a bump in the road, and challenges are coming. Some businesses already got affected.

Q: How do you think your personal life will change? What do you fear the most?

My personal life hasn’t changed that much so far, everything seems pretty much the same. But of course, looking at the news or social media, I can tell that something is not right. The thing I fear the most is violence and mistreating of people in the streets. There is this tension all around regarding this subject. But the funny thing is that, the more the time passes, the more the UK citizens seem to regret the results. I think that people are finding the results awful. The leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign are jumping overboard, which is a clear sign of “not knowing what we’ve done” feeling. There are lots of politics involved with this subjects, but I think that the “Leave” was motivated mainly by the immigration. Honestly, I really think it was a mistake to do this referendum, at least with these “information provided” vs “information absorbed” ratio.

Q: Thanks Miguel, we should meet for a “pastel de nata” soon.

You are welcome, and one day you will accept that Portuguese wine is better than the Italian one…

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