After speed dating sessions, interviews, a personality test and a skills test, Shadi recently started working as a civil engineer at Sweco, his first paid job in the Netherlands. With 17,500 employees, of which close to 2,000 in the Netherlands, Sweco is Europe’s leading design, engineering, environment & regulatory consultancy company.
Shadi: “I work in a team that designs bridges and tunnels. For the first time in my career I calculated a bicycle bridge! No bridges are built specifically for bicycles in Syria, at least not yet. My team consists of engineers, a team leader, project leaders and designers. Most of them are Dutch, but I also have colleagues from different countries in the Middle East. Together we speak Dutch, that is good for improving my language skills.”
“For the first time in my career I calculated a bicycle bridge!”
Good guidance, helpful colleagues and flexible working hours
”My supervisor and other colleagues help me with everything that is new to me. The work system, the administration, calculation methods that are different here. All my colleagues are nice and helpful. Also my team manager, which I find very special. In other countries I had team managers who were strict, serious and sometimes even unkind. Here the atmosphere is friendly, less hierarchical and I can propose my own ideas. This is new to me, positive and motivating. Just like the flexible working hours. I can decide where and when I work. I usually work two days at Sweco’s head office in De Bilt and three days at home or at the office in Rotterdam. As long as I work forty hours a week and assign my working time to projects, I can start and end every day whenever I want.”
Be inspired by the differences in your organisation
“Sweco is a company that celebrates the differences in the organisation. Open, collaborative, diverse, and inclusive. That’s how the company is described on the website and that’s how it feels. More employers in the Netherlands should get inspiration from companies such as Sweco. Newcomers bring talent, skills and knowledge with them. Yet they struggle to find a job. Is it a matter of trust? I think employers find it challenging to hire people from unfamiliar countries. That’s a shame, a missed opportunity. My advice to these companies: offer newcomers a traineeship and see how much good it yields.”
My master’s degrees are equivalent to Dutch master’s degrees
“After obtaining my master’s degree in Civil Engineering, I worked in Syria for a number of years, including for NGOs that had to renovate buildings and build new offices. I also worked as a teacher of engineering at the university. With a scholarship I continued my studies in Hungary and in 2019 I obtained my second master’s degree in Structural Engineering. Immediately afterwards I came to the Netherlands. I had my diplomas assessed, they are equivalent to Dutch master’s degrees. I was lucky. I know doctors and lawyers who are not allowed to practice their profession in the Netherlands because their diplomas are not recognised as equivalent to Dutch diploma’s.”
On NewBees’ advice I went on a speed date with Sweco
”About a year ago I started looking for a job and my contact person at the municipality of Rotterdam sent me a few links, including the one from NewBees. I met matcher Nagham, she invited me for an intake interview and coaching session. We had weekly contact, we discussed the vacancies she sent me as well as other ways to find work in my field. Such as the speed dating sessions of Refugee Talent Hub that Nagham recommended me to attend. That’s how I got to know Sweco. After a second speed date, they invited me for a job interview. The hiring process took several months, because in addition to a second interview, I had to take several skills and personality tests. In the end, Sweco offered me a contract.”
I am confident about my future in the Netherlands
“I want to stay in the Netherlands for the rest of my life. With my wife who joined me last year, and with our children that we hope to have in the future. The education system, employment opportunities and the freedom make the Netherlands a beautiful country for children to grow up in. And we love living in Rotterdam, a metropolis with people from over 130 different countries. My wife is also a civil engineer. She’ll start looking for a job next year, as soon as she reaches the B1 Dutch language level. I will continue developing my knowledge and professional skills. I hope that all goes well and that my six-months contract with Sweco will be extended.”
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