12. March 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramblings · Tags:
This may look exciting but it tastes wrong!

This may look exciting, but it tastes wrong!

So I realise a lot of the stuff on here is fairly positive about being in Australia. And don’t get me wrong, we are loving it. However, for some balance thought I’d have a bit of a whinging Pomm moment and tell you some of the less good stuff about living over here. So here we go, in no particular order:

  1. Obviously our friends and family are far away and I miss doing stuff with them.
  2. The TV is generally rubbish. I’m not one to schedule viewing time so the chances of finding anything decent on are low. On the plus side this does mean we spend less time I front the box (or possibly more money renting films!)
  3. It gets very hot – 33 degrees is currently officially too hot for me! You will burn in the sun very quickly, even when you don’t think you will. You need to wear a lot of sun cream and I hate the feel of it. Beats skin cancer though.
  4. Dairy milk tastes different and you can’t get Marmite (these are serious problems, along with the fact pubs don’t generally serve you vinegar to have with your chips)
  5. You pay to see the doctor and really need private health insurance. Luckily for us at the moment on our visas we get the insurance subsidised through Matts work, which saves us about $200 a month. Although this would be expensive otherwise it is easy to get a doctors appointment – none of this come in in 15 minutes (but I’m at work) or three weeks next Thursday business.
  6. There are a lot of flies in the countryside and they are irritating. Nobody really mentions this before you come. Maybe cork hats help.
  7. Things bite you and it itches a lot. Some of them might kill you (although I’ve not seen anything deadly yet – I don’t think!)
  8. House hunting generally means getting to a 15 minute time slot, on a weekend, with a bunch of other people.
  9. All the abbreviations (see here). I like these but my inner English teacher does die a bit inside every time someone says Ambo, Garbo or Firey. Then again I can see myself adopting these over time and then everyone in the UK will laugh at me!
  10. There is a lot of road kill about. Not only does this make me sad, you run a pretty high risk of whacking something eventually and doing some serious car damage.
  11. Sorting things out in the UK like calling the bank or mortgage company has to be done at night because of the time difference.Generally I can’t be bothered with this after a day at work!

All in all though we’re still loving Oz and all the things I rave about in pretty much every post!

Anything in particular getting you down about your country at the moment?


Happy New Year blog fans!

Hope you’re all having a fab time. We are currently down in Tasmania away from lots of computers at the moment, so I wrote this in advance and scheduled it (like a lot of the posts).

I suppose as well as a big party its natural to reflect at New Year on how the year has gone, what you’ve been up to and what lies in the year ahead.

So last year started with an excellent M themed fancy dress party with our friends The Pauls from round the corner in Horsham. Not only did we have outfits, staying awake till gone midnight was a pretty good achievement as we landed back from New Zealand that day with some serious jetlag. It seems like ages ago now – this year has gone so fast!

Obviously a lot has changed with our move over to Sydney on 11th Feb, both starting new jobs and setting up in a new flat including buying a lot of new furniture and bits and pieces (and new Short family member Jeffrey the car). It’s all going well here which is great and I’m glad we were brave enough to come. Time will tell what happens next.

Instead of New Year Resolutions, here are some wise words to think about (I couldn’t choose one!)

‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it…unless is agrees with your own reason and common sense.’

‘We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.’ 

‘You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.’

Recently I’ve had to explain what I do at work to people a few times. If you ever wondered, here’s an interview style guide to being a Proposals Manager.

Whats your job title?

I am a Proposals Manager (sometimes called a Bid Manager).

Who do you work for?

I work for Balfour Beatty Australia, who also own Parsons Brinckerhoff which more people in Australia have heard of. For the bids going on at the moment we have teamed up with Transfield Services to form a Joint Venture called RoadsPlus. Its all about RoadsPlus for me!

Where do you work?

I work in World Square in Sydney city centre most of the time. Its about 30 mins door to door from our flat, so pretty good.

What’s the point of your job?

Well….in one sentence – to prepare winning bids for road maintenance contracts with state Governments and local Councils.

What’s road maintenance?

Its sexy stuff. Basically it involves a whole host of things to keep roads open and running smoothly, including: filling potholes, bigger carriageway repairs, sign cleaning, gulley (drain) emptying, resurfacing, small improvement projects, grass cutting, responding to traffic incidents, developing asset management strategies, doing designs and some stakeholder consultation.

Who does all this at the moment then?

At the moment State Governments and Councils do this themselves. But they all need to make cuts and savings, so by bringing in private sector companies like RoadsPlus who are experts in this they can make savings. In the UK these services have been outsourced for a long time, so we bring a lot of experience in how to do it very well.

How do the bids work?

Normally there are two or more stages. The first is an Expression of Interest (EOI). This is normally fairly simple. The client says what they want and sets out some questions. We reply to express our interest and tell them why we’d be good for the job. The client then selects a shortlist of people for the second stage which is normally a Request for Tender (RFT). For the tender there are normally some more technical questions, a large price element and some commercial and legal aspects too. As proposals manager I am in charge of the non-price elements (called ‘Quality’ in the UK). Sometimes either during the RFT or after you also get to have client meetings and presentations, which I really enjoy.

One of our recent bids was epic. We did 6 copies in musician roady style massive cases. The proposal in each one had over 580,000 words!!

Epic bid

Epic bid

How much are the bids worth?

Its big money. Typically the contracts are around $30m – $100m per year (depending on the size of the network) for 5 to 7 years.

What do you do most days?

The bid process is quite well defined, so it really depends what phase of the bid we are in. Normally I spend my time split between working on my computer with emails and writing and having meetings. Things I get up to include: reviewing all the client documents so we understand what we have to do; brainstorming and planning out our bid response; getting a team together the write the responses; managing them to do that; writing some bits myself; gathering evidence; arranging and doing reviews of drafts; putting questions to the client; having regular update meetings with the team and working with our production team on the ‘look and feel’ of the response.

What do you like most about your job?

I really enjoy my job for a lot of reasons. I love a challenge and like a healthy amount of stress, so the bid process and its regular deadlines works well for that. The team we have is really great and I enjoy working with them to get a good bid together, and make a better solution than any of us could have individually. We work hard but have great banter and of course lunches and biscuits! I like having the opportunity to work with clients and really understand what they want. I learn a lot every day, be it about something our company has done, something geeky about asphalt or from some of the other random things I get involved in like marketing. The variety is really good. I also enjoy knowing we put together a really good offer, which could actually make services better and spend tax payers money more wisely. RoadsPlus is a new company in Australia, so bringing all the experience fro overseas is a really exciting thing to be doing.

Whats the worst bit of your job?

The hours can be pretty long, especially coming up to deadlines, which also makes for a bit of an unhealthy diet! Because I’m an impatient person waiting for the results is also agonizing, but its teaching me to be more patient. Of course not winning is also rubbish, but hopefully that doesn’t happen too often.

How are the bids going at the moment?

Since coming to Australia we have put in two EOIs for contracts in SE Queensland and Sydney and we were shortlisted on both, beating some fairly stiff competition which is great! We have put in two full bids for each of these now, and am waiting with crossed fingers for the results soon!

So now you know what I do! Any more questions I forgot?

As you might expect from someone with a PhD, I do a fair amount of thinking – not necessarily about anything particularly meaningful, insightful or earth shattering – just kicking ideas and questions (mainly questions) about in my brain. And there are normally more questions than answers!

As well as updates about our emigration and adventures in Australia, I thought we could use the blog to post a range of other things too, including bringing you some of the ideas rattling about in my brain.

This week I have been thinking about culture.

My brother has lived in Germany for a couple of years now, with his German girlfriend who he met when the both lived in the UK. We were discussing the differences between the UK and Germany recently and it got me wondering about culture. The identity kind, not the Tate Modern kind. We’ve also been watching some relevant programmes for research purposes, like Crocodile Dundee 1 and 2 and ‘Phil Down Under’.

What does it mean to be British / from Britain?

How British am I? (Have I got a load of cultural traits I don’t even realise which will mark me out?) 

What is Australian culture really like? (Am I going to have to start being interested in sport?)

Will they get our sense of humour and vice versa?

What’s the right balance between integrating into a new culture and maintaining your cultural heritage / ‘roots’?

What are the things we will end up really missing from home and wondering how we ever lived without?

Pasties - Pretty British I reckon. Yum.

Pasties – Pretty British I reckon. Yum.

I’d like to think I have my own identity and am not too much of a stereotype. But then again I like eating pies in country pubs, have a tendency for cynicism (negativity you may say), talk about the weather a fair amount and get irritated when people don’t observe the rules of orderly queuing.

We’ve heard various things about Australia and its culture, but I don’t think you can get a proper idea about it before living there. Although in a lot of ways the UK and Australia are not too culturally dissimilar (compared to say Thailand, Japan, Kenya or Brazil) I’m expecting there to be quite a few differences that we probably haven’t even realised about yet.

I’m looking forward to a more laid back attitude and better work life balance, although I’m not sure how this will work out with my role managing bids. The whole point of bids is to win, by putting together the best (and cheapest) proposal and beating all the competition. Sadly you don’t do that by going to the beach at 5pm every day unfortunately. Unless all the competition go at 4.30pm, that would be good!

I’ll do another post when we’ve been there a while and let you know how its going!

Any thoughts on culture?