I want to share what it feels like working away from home and the family. I have been working most of my working career away from home, being a Civil Engineer and looking after sites at far aways places seems like a good idea but it has it’s downside too.
Let me tell you how I started being away from home. I was in a place called Gebeng in the East Coast of Malaysia in the state of Pahang. I was in charge of the Civil works for the Propane Dehydrogenation Plant. It was in 1998, that I was called up by my Operational Director to his office, and during that period of time, our economy was hit by the global recession and I thought to myself that the company was giving me the marching orders. But to my surprise I was informed that I was to take charge of the above mentioned site and to replace the existing Project Manager. I was happy that I still had my job, but the trade off was that I would be stationed away from home.
It was a tough job though, what with meetings at 7.45 a.m. and capping it up at 4.30 p.m. everyday except on Sunday and being chased all over the site by the “white” consultants who were working for the client. I learned a lot in that job as I was being exposed to the Oil and Gas sector and it’s like everything that they want to be constructed has to done immediately or yesterday. With our base in Kuala Lumpur, which was 350 kms away, sometimes things can get pretty sticky in decision making from HQ and I have to face the brunt of it all. Sometimes I wonder to myself, the Project Manager is paid 90% of his salary to be screwed by the client and 10% to get the work executed (it was my case though).
I travel back home every weekend from site by my Pajero and it is about 3 to 4 hours drive. It was taxing though, but I wanted to see my family, I have 2 boys and they were missing me very much. We had good outings together as I am there for the weekend and spend our time going out for dinners and shopping.
I was in dilemma at this time as my M.B.A dissertation was due for submission and I just couldn’t find the time and also there weren’t any good library for reference(near my work site and town) and I didn’t have my Internet connection either. So I had to take the decision of deferring my submission and had to pay a penalty for it. My M.B.A was from Keele University, U.K and the professor who was in charge for my thesis, when I submitted my draft had informed me that it was not worthy of submission as I had not done enough research on my work.
I was in Gebeng for 2.5 years and by then I had changed my subject for my dissertation and spend my nights doing my research on the Internet and making my trips to the library in Kuala Lumpur when I travel back. I had completed my M.B.A and the saddest part was that I couldn’t make it for my convocation at the University in U.K due to my work load.
On one of my trips traveling from Kuala Lumpur to my site, I had a bad accident, my Pajero had skidded into a ravine and it rolled 5 times, the SUV was a total wreck but I was in one piece. Thank God for my lucky stars. I guess these are the perks for working overseas.
After that episode was over, I was offered a post as a Senior Project Manager, but the catch was that I had to take over the Oil and Gas section of our company which was a subsidiary company. Again I had to decide, a promotion with strings attached, so I took the challenge. This time I had my outstanding posting to a place called Perlis which a border town to Thailand. We were laying Gas pipelines in the paddy fields and this was not a cake walk. This time I was stationed in Kuala Lumpur, I drive to my site on every Tuesday and stay in a hotel in that small town and drive back on Thursday, it is about 500 kms from my home.
The good thing about Perlis job was that I normally cross over to the cowboy town in Thailand for my dinner with my staff and after that a little bit of rest and recreation. Oh what can I say, those were the days. Well this went on for about a year and my kids were already growing up and I was like a part time dad to them.
The next job posting was overseas, and now I am in India running the Indian operation of our company. I travel back home every three months and I am already away from home for the past 6 years. Now my boys have really grown up, my first son is enrolled for a foundation course to do his medicine in Moscow and my second son would be having his public exams next year.
Being in India is like being in solitary confinement, I am alone by myself and I hardly go out. We had a job in hand, but now it is in arbitration and the award would be announced on 19.05.2008. I am at a cross road in my life, my overseas contract is expiring by the end of June 08 and my family is telling me not to renew it. So I guess, family comes first and the worst case would be that I should be prepared to look for a new job.