Elie, Special Projects Manager, Freyssinet UK

Express CV  

Age 34. Master of Engineering Solid Mechanics at Ecole Polytechnique, France Master of Civil Engineering at École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, France 
  • 2013: Bridge Designer at FINLEY Engineering Group (USA)
  • 2015: Senior Structural Engineer, Freyssinet International & Co, Technical Department
  • 2018: Director of Freyssinet Asia-Pacific Technical Department (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Since 2021: Special Projects Manager, Freyssinet Ltd (Telford, United Kingdom)

A job of passion and innovation

When I was a student at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris I worked on a joint project with an engineer from Freyssinet. He talked passionately about his job and how he and his team were constantly trying to push the limits of civil engineering. It made me want to be part of this organization. At school, we all knew about and admired Eugène Freyssinet’s inventions and many of us would have aspired to join the company he had created, right out of school. 

In 2015 I was lucky enough to secure a job in Freyssinet’s Technical Department. It was evident from the start that innovation and entrepreneurship were indeed at the heart of the company’s DNA. 

Over the last eight years I have had the opportunity to work with French, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Australian and most recently English teams. From one country to another, business habits change according to local cultures, but the spirit of innovation is a common thread between our entities. We all want to serve the customer with a differentiating and sustainable solution bringing them added value. For example, work done at the Asia-Pacific Technical Office in Bangkok allowed us to offer some pretty incredible solutions to Freyssinet’s clients – we designed one of the first Incrementally Launched Viaducts in the Philippines and implemented friction clamping in Singapore for the first time to jack a railway bridge in service. Innovation is part of our day-to-day work, enabling us to continually push the envelope of structural and civil engineering. 

Renovation of past structures…

Structural repair is also now a core capability of Freyssinet, diversifying our know-how to maintain and strengthen existing structures.  

One of my most vivid project memories is the strengthening of Pagoda in Bagan Historic Park in Myanmar, which dates back to the 12th century. The challenge was exciting – how can we work on a building built 800 years ago without damaging it? How did the engineers of the past design these buildings, which have remained intact after centuries? The architectural and structural aspects of existing/historical structures fascinate us engineers today.

…and building for the future

Today I am Special Projects Manager at Freyssinet UK. I work on developing Freyssinet UK’s activities in projects involving post-tensioning, heavy handling, UHPC solutions and bridge construction, as well as on the development of our business lines. 

My main focus at the moment? HS2 (High-Speed 2). This is one of the biggest infrastructure construction projects in the world. The objective is to build more than 400km of high-speed railway line between London, Birmingham and Manchester, facilitating the mobility of commuters between the North and the South of the country while also having a positive environmental impact. We are all very proud to contribute to this major project. It’s shaping the construction industry in the UK for the future. The first phase of the project will be in service in 2031, with the end of the overall project scheduled for 2037. A long way to go! 

What surprised you (pleasantly) when you arrived at Freyssinet?

The autonomy granted to engineers. At Freyssinet, we quickly acquire significant responsibilities. We are encouraged to develop managerial, commercial, technical and financial skills, while at the same time, the most senior engineers and managers are always available to support you whenever you need. I liked that balance between autonomy and support, which enables a young engineer to grow safely.

Which Freyssinet project are you most proud of?

The Thu Thiem 2 bridge in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh. The 315m, four-lane bridge opened in 2022 and is one of the most emblematic projects of the Freyssinet group. Thu Thiem 2 is a complex and elegant structure, in a way a condensed version of the company’s innovations from stay cables to deck and pylon construction. If you want to understand Freyssinet’s know-how, have to look at this structure!

What do you find the most difficult in your daily job?

Changing mind sets. I think innovation and different ways of construction can make someone who is not familiar with the method or the technology uncomfortable. This is where our role becomes important, and our technical background crucial for presenting the solutions and satisfying the clients of its benefits, while also reassuring them about the new method or technology they perhaps haven’t worked with before. This is how we create effective collaboration.  

Any advice for a young recruit?

Work hard and be passionate about what you do. Work on building an expertise that is both general and versatile that will allow you to cover all Freyssinet’s specialist activities. You should not be afraid to face new challenges, that’s how you grow. In any case, at Freyssinet, you don’t stay in your comfort zone for long! You are lucky to be surrounded by people who are eager to pass on their expertise, to give you the means to grow. A true entrepreneurial spirit!

3 words to describe Freyssinet?

Innovation, collaboration, solution provider. And I would add a fourth: passion!