With a dream of becoming an electrical engineer, Elmer moved from Spain to the UK with little experience, qualifications or money and no English. Working at hotels and restaurants to earn enough money, he took English classes and went on to complete a degree. His dream is now reality and he’s held consultant engineer roles in both London and Doha, Qatar.
Elmer originally hails from Girona, Spain, but over the years has lived in Bath and London in the UK and is now based in Doha, Qatar.
He’d always had an interest in electrical engineering and after completing a national diploma in electrical installations and air conditioning systems he worked in a factory as part of a maintenance team. He wanted to work within the construction sector, so began working towards that goal with jobs as an electrician, but he knew he wanted to go further.
“I wanted to become a consultant electrical engineer but I knew there was a lot of competition out there and so I had to do something that would make myself stand out,” he says.
Elmer thought one way to make his CV shine would be to gain international experience and so he saved up some money and bought himself a ticket to the UK. A scary leap, Elmer only knew a few words in English, so found a job as a kitchen porter and began intensive English lessons.
Once he had the basics under his belt, Elmer applied for a place on a BTEC mechatronics course.
“At the interview the head of the department said I would fail because of my English but I responded by saying that I’d work harder than anyone else to get that distinction. Two years later I passed with great marks and my English had improved dramatically,” he says proudly.
Elmer then moved to Bath where he completed an electrical and electronics engineering degree. Throughout his education he had to pay for all the costs himself, as his family couldn’t support him, and so he worked as a waiter, kitchen porter, cleaner and at one stage even in a burger van to earn enough to cover his fees and living costs.
“It was tough times, I was lonely and felt under so much pressure, but it was worth it,” he says.
Elmer began applying for jobs during his final year at university and was offered a position as a consultant engineer with Buro Happold before he graduated, but he wasn’t quite done yet. He wrote a proposal to his employer asking for sponsorship for an MSc, which they accepted, and then he spent two years studying part-time.
“It was when I completed my MSc that I really felt like my days as a cleaner were over,” he says. “I then married my girlfriend, the next year we bought our first house and then the following year our first daughter was born.”
Family life didn’t mean Elmer’s career climb had come to an end, however. Having a wife with a similar work ethic meant that they both wanted the best for themselves and their family and so when she completed her own higher education, a new opportunity appeared.
“I’m now based in Doha, Qatar. I had done projects here with Buro Happold, and we’d travelled to the Middle East on holidays before, so we were both aware on the opportunities in the region,” he explains. “After my wife completed her postgraduate degree she was offered a teaching role in Doha and so we decided as a family to move.”
“Once you move to another country the world seems smaller and you realise that if you’ve done it once doing it again is not that difficult,” he continues. “I moved from Spain to the UK with no English, no university qualifications, not much work experience and no money! What I learnt on that journey was so amazing that moving to another country became a must for my family and me.
“Moving to other countries is never easy, but it’s worth it. By working in other countries you become more mature in a way as you have to look after yourself much more if you’re on your own. Your CV also becomes more attractive when you can show that you have experience abroad and therefore you increase your chances of getting a good job,” he adds.
Elmer currently works for WSP and has had the opportunity to work on some amazing engineering projects which have included working on a new sports stadium in Qatar, a 112 storey high building project in Dubai and his latest project sees him take on the lead electrical engineer role on a depot for a tram system in Doha.
He’s continuing to push himself career-wise and his next goal is to complete his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
“There are many opportunities here and I’ve worked hard to become well connected with people in my field - the future’s looking good!”
It has been a hard road, but Elmer believes that hard work and determination can get you anywhere and he thinks it is very important for people to step out of their comfort zone and push themselves.
Although moving and working overseas can be tough for many reasons, Elmer believes it’s a great career opportunity that many more young engineers should consider.
“If there are graduates reading this, I would advise them to consider all the options. Don’t just apply to the local company near your hometown: that narrows your options for success. Consider moving away for some time and don’t be scared of what could happen.
“When I came to Qatar we didn’t have much money as my wife had been studying full-time and I was paying my daughter’s nursery fees. We took the risk of coming here, but we worked hard and things have turned out very well for us. If it was easy everyone would do it, but the more you bet, the more you can win. And if you fail, consider it as a way of paying for knowledge and experience, which will help you improve further,” he concludes.