Cable engineer takes instant liking to Suzhou

Dec 26, 2014

“ALL my family members travel around the world. It is in my blood to travel and meet new people. Some people like staying in the same city and live the routine life. But to me, I like going everywhere to get some new experience,” says Jerry Brown, technical director of Hengtong Marine Cable Systems.

The 54-year-old English engineer came to China in April and quickly fell in love with Suzhou.

“I was attracted by the canal, gardens, museums, elegantly designed roofs and even the tiles are very nice,” says Brown.

He considers Changshu, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Suzhou, a second home and a place where his career has flourished. Brown is in charge of subsea cable systems and designing new equipment.

Hengtong’s plant is in the Changshu Economic and Technology Development Zone, which comprises more than 5,000 companies including 600 multinationals like Jaguar Land Rover, Qoros, Novartis, Dunlop, and Sharp.

The Suzhou government provides incentives to encourage overseas professionals to relocate to the city and for local companies to be more innovative while thinking internationally.

“All my working career has been involved with subsea cables. It was an interesting opportunity to come to work in a new environment. With the help of the Suzhou government and the company, I came here to see the facilities, saw the prosperous future and I am eager to achieve the company’s five-year plan,” Brown says.

He started his career in cable manufacturing in the UK, working on joint cable housing designs and cable systems.

“Throughout my career, I pick up information and knowledge and learn lessons from mistakes,” he says.

Brown credits this as the key to his success. He says he changed from technical to marine operations offshore, working on planning cable systems on survey ships to map the sea bed and plan routes. He says he can spend up to six weeks at sea learning useful things about how to protect cables.

Although with the company for just over half a year, Brown has good relationships with his colleagues.

“I have a very motivated team,” Brown says. They are cable design engineers, process engineers who are very knowledgeable about manufacturing cables and the production line.

“Usually the specifications from clients are in English, so I read them first and make some notes. Then I discuss with engineers and we share some thoughts and fix the problems together.

“I feel very much at home. They are very kind and make me feel very welcome. Sometimes we share lunch together and they teach me how to speak Chinese and Suzhou dialect,” Brown says. “Shortly after I came here, I learned from my colleagues that everyone is learning English to make me feel more comfortable. I feel warm at heart.”

Brown thinks the subsea cable market in China has great potential.

“Moving the cable takes a long time from other countries. The domestic companies in this area have an advantage of location and convenience. And many plans and new products are coming up in the next few years,” he says.

“The working background here is slightly different from my hometown in England and also I spent the last three years in Thailand. These countries don’t have such goals and plans. It is a very nice feeling to be in a company with a clear plan for the future.”

Founded in 1991, Hengtong focuses on ocean engineering cables and accessories, such as submarine optical fiber cables, submarine power cables, optical fiber composite submarine cables and joint closures. Annual production is expected to rise from 2,000 kilometers of cables to 4,000km and reach 6,000km by 2016.

“The submarine cable area is a very special industry and involves many people and areas to make each project a success. I really like working in this kind of environment,” Brown says.

“Learning everything, being able to help each other and making progress are what I strive for both in life and at work,” says Brown, who is on-call 24 hours a day. “I have to fix various offshore problems. It is a very dynamic job.”

However, Brown knows how to unwind when given the chance.

“Walking along the canal and strolling around town are my favorite ways to explore this city. I also like staying at home, reading books and watching movies,” he says. “Also, I never miss the local cuisine like braised pork and some traditional snacks.”

About the Column

Suzhou Face

This series focuses on individuals who have lived in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province for a while and have a tale that’s worth telling. Age, gender, nationality and race are all unimportant in comparison with what adventures the subject has been up to, the experiences they can recount.

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