Walker Headlights: Deon Bender, PE
Most of our friends/clients know Walker Parking Consultants throughout the United States, but many are unaware of our presence overseas; specifically in the booming country of the United Arab Emirates, where we have two offices – one in Abu Dhabi and another in Dubai. In today’s Walker Headlights, we shine a bit of light on our work and employees on the other side of the globe.
Deon Bender, PE is a Project Manager for Walker Parking Consultants. Deon took the chance of a lifetime to move from Walker’s Denver, Colorado office to Walker’s Dubai, UAE office for a 2 year stay. He has now been working in the UAE for over a year. We got the chance to ask Deon how his experience in the UAE has been so far, here are some of his answers:
Q: What most excited you about taking the opportunity to work in the UAE?
A: Not many Americans get a chance to travel out of the U.S., let alone live on another continent. I saw this as not only a great career opportunity, but also a chance to broaden my view of the world.
Being in the UAE, in both my personal and professional life I am almost always the only American in the room. In a room full of 10 people rarely are there more than 2 people of the same nationality. Because of this I am constantly exposed to different ways of thinking and different lines of logic. A simple conversation can be frustrating sometimes, but it can also be very illuminating if you open your mind to it and listen to how other cultures think.
Q: What most surprised you about working and living in a new country?
A: The UAE is not as different from the western world as I thought it would be. I was very surprised to see that most things are more similar than you would expect half way around the globe in an Arab country. It’s different in a lot of small ways, but for the most part it’s the same. There are very conservative Islamic traditions that you must respect, however the UAE is quite tolerant of most western ways.
Q: Can you give any tips to someone who is considering traveling to the UAE?
A: If you are considering travelling on a vacation, my advice is, just do it! Just don’t come in the summer. Winter and spring are absolutely beautiful seasons. It’s a very unique part of the world and if you have the chance to see it, don’t pass it up!
Q: How is the work you are doing in the UAE different from the work you did in the U.S.?
A: First of all it’s the metric system; it took me more than 6 months to start thinking in meters. I still have to convert to feet sometimes for a real gut check on the scale of these big structures.
The projects here in Dubai are extremely complex, challenging, fast paced, collaborative and on a big scale. As an example, I am currently responsible for over 10,000 parking spaces under design. Our office has probably 30,000 parking spaces currently under design. It’s absolutely amazing.
We participate in regular design charrettes and presentations, and everything we do is challenged and questioned by either clients or other consultants. It can be exasperating, but we are working on projects that are setting world records, and are some of the most prestigious and visible developments in the world. Almost every project is mixed use. The work we do in the Dubai office is all very high level consulting, and I use the analogy: The work we do here is the quantum physics of functional design. Because of this I have grown immensely as a functional designer, and I am very lucky to get to work closely with and learn from our Walker experts like Dave Vander Wal, Mary Smith and Ron Schuman.
Q: Has your work taken you to other countries in the region? Or have you traveled just for fun to any other exciting places?
A: Work has only taken me to Saudi Arabia so far. Saudi Arabia is a unique place. The work was very interesting. I also look forward to going to Egypt this year to assist Mary Smith on a large development in Cairo.
I spent my vacations going home last year, weddings and family events. But this year I told my family and friends that if they want to see me they have to come here. I’m not going to miss my opportunity to see this part of the world, so I’m spending the whole year abroad. I currently have plans to rent a BMW and drive through Germany, Belgium and Netherlands in June. I figure I can visit at least 6 new countries this year within my vacation allowance and long holiday weekends. There are tons of locations within a short flight distance, and can be done on a three day weekend.
Reach out to Deon!