From ARCADIS Germany to EC Harris Shanghai – expanding my horizons

14 octobre 2015

IMG_0633My Quest took me from my home office of ARCADIS Germany in Darmstadt to the EC Harris office in Shanghai, China and began with an eleven-hour direct flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai. When I arrive dazed and confused, I was happy about my prearrangements for the last part of the journey: the transfer from the airport to the office of EC Harris: I prepared maps to all my destinations with written directions in both English and Chinese – in hindsight, this was very helpful! The cab ride was thrilling: In Shanghai (and other cities in China), the taxi drivers weave in and out of traffic like a drag race you might see in ‘Fast & Furious’. They exploit their steering wheel horn even though they are clear of traffic. Note: I was later told that the horn was a symbol to state who has right of way and who is more important on the road.

The new office, in which ARCADIS, CallisonRTKL, EC Harris, Hyder and Langdon Seah removed in June this year, is located in the “Changning Distric” in the midst of shopping malls, hotels and branch banks. My first impression of the new office was WOW, this is very different (even to our brand new office in Darmstadt). The office was open concept with a variety of work stations, meeting rooms of varying sizes in the center and lockers for employees. It was bright and airy – and “well-stocked”. My next impression was how friendly and helpful employees were when I was introduced. Despite busy schedules and looming deadlines, all made time to answer my questions and engage in discussions on what they did. I was even fortunate to receive invaluable local sight-seeing and restaurant recommendations.

IMG_0621During my first day in Shanghai, in the afternoon, I met my host Richard. I was familiarized in the office areas and fire escape routes (“Safety Moment”) and I learned about the office structure. I spent the remaining afternoon to get a better idea of the organization and the importance of the Shanghai office and to make arrangements for the next days.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15th, I was introduced by Richard to the teams of EC Harris, which are currently working in “Project & Program management” projects and was invited to the first bi-weekly team meeting of Tony Zheng, Head of Client Service. He started to establish an internal meeting series with short reports about current projects, general updates about company business, internal training sessions and the possibility of team building events. Earlier in the afternoon, I attended a meeting arranged by Leslie Chang, HR Manager, about the “EC Harris China Graduate Program – Behind Great Firm, there are great people”. After the presentation we discussed the current strategy and the graduate development program.

IMG_0674At the next day, Wednesday, Sept. 16th, I had time for sharing knowledge with the colleagues from EC Harris. I spent the first half of the day with Project Director George Zhao who was leading the HSBC portfolio for the CRE team. It was a good opportunity to see how our Chinese collogues procure and deliver retail fit-out projects. I learnt that although commercial developments and residential developments have different end users, the policies and processes put in place to deliver the projects are very similar e.g. stage/monthly valuations, flash reports, deed of variation, general contract admin and monthly site meetings etc.

When I met Roger Qian he presented his huge project “Value Retail Shanghai” – EC Harris is providing Project Management and Design Management for the development and construction of a huge outlet village on the brink of Shanghai (comparable to “Wertheim Village” in Germany, which was developed by the same company). After the briefing, we arranged a site visit in the afternoon of the next day and I was able to visit this project in reality.

Later in the day (Sept. 17th) I visited the “container city”, where the EC Harris team is providing Program management Services for the same client. Project Director Michelle Wu told me the most important facts of the Program (tenant management for the whole new outlet village) and the biggest issues. We discussed the use – and the utility – of some tools and the importance of different trackers.


At my final day at EC Harris Shanghai, Friday, Sept. 18th, I spent the first half of the day with Assistant Project Manager Martina who took me to one of her projects with Citi-Bank. She showed me the result of the change management for the client – who has to modernize and optimize most of his office areas in one of the famous skyscrapers in Shanghai / Pudong. In the afternoon, I spent some time with my colleagues from EC Harris and they told me about some details of their projects and I explained my workaday life in Germany.



On Saturday, Sept. 19th, I spent the day exploring Shanghai. I first started at the Bund where I had to chance to see some of the famous sky scrapers. I then walked to the Yu-Garden and enjoyed the nature and the architecture. As majority of my time was spent in the city center, I had now the opportunity to travel to the suburbs of Shanghai and to have the opportunity to explore the city beyond the fancy shopping centers, designer shops and multi-million pound sky scrapers which plagued the city. What I found was that there was multiple deprivation in the surrounding communities, and that there was clearly a large disparity between the rich and the poor.


I highly recommend a Quest: it expanded my knowledge, furthered my understanding of ARCADIS worldwide and helped developing professional relationships. Special thanks to the Lovinklaan Foundation and to Richard, Tony, Roger, Alex, Amy, Binbo, George, Michelle, Martina and Flora.


Melanie Pfeiffer – Program Manager