Self-starting pays off handsomely for student

Self-starter Bisrat Defega at work on the Leadenhall site

Self-starter Bisrat Defega at work on the Leadenhall site

A University of Portsmouth student who spent his spare time learning about an emerging new technology has been rewarded by winning a coveted role working for a multinational company.

Bisrat Degefa, 22, is studying Construction Engineering Management and was offered a five month paid internship working for Laing O’Rourke after his prowess with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) was spotted at a national competition.

He was tapped on the shoulder by a senior manager from Laing O’Rourke after the competition and asked if he would like to help lead a new pilot project implementing an innovative global remote tracking of offsite components using RFID technology at the Leadenhall building, a prestigious 47-storey, 736 ft skyscraper in the City of London, said to be the capital’s next big landmark building.

Bisrat was one of two Portsmouth students shortlisted for the construction engineering and design award in the annual Undergraduate of the Year competition, run by Target Jobs. A third Portsmouth student was shortlisted for the Business and Finance category.

The Leadenhall building under construction CREDIT: Phil Starling Photography

The Leadenhall building under construction CREDIT: Phil Starling Photography

The competition attracts thousands of entries and offers 12 awards, each sponsored by a different leading company.

Although Bisrat didn’t win the construction award, his understanding of RFID, learned in his spare time, was not only up to date but also in high demand.

Bisrat said: “I was already on placement with another firm at the time and I didn’t want to let them down, but I also didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. I talked to my manager and he said I would be crazy to ignore such a good offer, so I started work at the Leadenhall building the following week.

“I was pretty mesmerised at the ceremony to be honest. I seem to be Laing O’Rourke’s youngest member of staff on this project and I’m doing things other interns don’t usually get the chance to do.”

RFID tracks goods from manufacturing through to installation, helping drive down costs and improve forecasts of building project timelines.

Bisrat said: “I started reading about it in my spare time. It sounded interesting, I understood it and so I started researching it to find out more.

“I stumbled across the competition online and thought I’d try my luck. I filled out the application and to my surprise, my knowledge about this technology was something that Laing O’Rourke were investing in and saw as the future.

“More than 5,000 people entered the awards, so to get the final 120 was pretty amazing.

“My motto is ‘If you don’t try, you don’t get’ and putting in the hours is noticeable.”

Two other Portsmouth students reached the final ten. Simon Taylor was shortlisted in the Construction Engineering and Design category, and Vlad Stoian was shortlisted in the Business and Finance Student of the Year category, sponsored by Morgan Stanley. Prizes were awarded by Michael Portillo in a ceremony at Canary Wharf.

Bisrat has since helped set up summer and year-long internships for Portsmouth students with his original placement company, a surveying firm. When he returns to Portsmouth for his fourth and final year of study he is also planning on setting up workshops to teach Building Information Modelling, a new construction process in which projects are built virtually, enabling users to ‘see into the future’ and resolve potential problems before they occur, providing significant cost benefits to industry.

8 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. This is an amazing and very inspiring achievement. It’s also a proof that this young lad has a vision and clearly understood what the future is like for the inustry. I encourage all young and ambitious professinals to follow suit of such a role model.

    Well done Bisrat!!

  2. It is great! I know Bisrat very much and beleive me he he is a hard worker and imaginative, and just wait we will hear more and more success of him in the time to come.

  3. oh. well done. even thought i dont really know him but the still is so inspiring. the strength he has and the ability he offered is greater than any of current student.
    well done mate!

  4. Good luck Bisrat all at Avonwood RFID are looking forward to working with you in the future.
    well done
    Bob Thomas MD Avonwood and Eureka RFID

  5. My company is the principle steel fabicator and erector on the Leadenhall building. I have worked over the past few weeks with Bisrat. It’s been a very interesting and useful project, and also as an ‘elder statesman’ of supply chain, I have very much enjoyed my discussions with young Bisrat and about technology adoption. We have been able to see the implementation challenges in our fabrication shops and our transport networks. My Company is keen to understand the benefits and risks of this kind of technology and Bisrat is helping us in this process. I never fully understood his achievements getting this far, so well done. Quite outstanding!

  6. Well done Bizrat! An outstanding achievement.. anyone who speaks to you can see the real passion you have within your field I am sure this is only the beginning and you will continue to exceed your own expectations. All the best!

  7. Many congratulations Bisrat! Well done! I am sure you have a scope for a lot more very useful innovations. Keep up with the good work. Very best wishes with the advancement of your career and with your creation of new innovations. Will keep watching the space.

  8. Well done Bisrat – Fantastic work! I have no doubt in my mind that you will be highly successful in whatever you choose to pursue.

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