As Haskell expands its scale and scope in Southeast Asia, it is continually proving itself against competitors with a 30-year head start in the region. Abdul Rahman is the man carrying the baton.
The 59-year-old Project Superintendent brings a lifetime spent in this part of the world, as well as an innate understanding of the high standards of safety and excellence inherent in each Haskell project. He is Haskell’s first Malaysian superintendent.
Rahman’s construction career began when he was barely 20 years old, when the end of one job usually meant being hired by another company for another project and so on. Each job presented a new learning opportunity.
“I started from zero. I learned from my first job site. I had to do everything. Later, I learned about the delivery of materials and the material usage. After two years I began learning the supervising trade,” Rahman said.
When Haskell was looking for its first Malaysian superintendent, they found a man devoted to his work and family. He has been married to his wife, Puteri Umi Maharum Binti Megat Zahasham, for 35 years. They have nine children ages 33 to 17.
“He is very poised, and he is a problem solver,” said Matt Schultz, Director of Construction for Haskell in the Asia-Pacific Region. “As soon as I met him, I knew he was my guy. As we continue to hire superintendents, he’s going to be the leader, the father figure, who’s going to be setting the example for the others. Then for all our younger staff, like our APMs (assistant project managers) on site, he’s got to be the person maintaining the standard – in a world where that standard doesn’t exist.”
Rahman joined Haskell in early 2020 and was ready to take the lead on an aerospace facility when COVID derailed the project. He was then assigned to lead the building renovation on a 322,000-square-foot Malaysia manufacturing plant for a confidential client. The price tag is a modest $6 million with a target completion date of June 2022, but it’s the sort of undertaking that will garner Haskell attention for its detail and quality standards.
COVID made this first Haskell venture even more challenging. All planning was done via Teams video conferencing. Working with new people and a new work culture, Rahman nonetheless has handled it with aplomb. Even though English is his second language, he speaks it with precision.
He is well aware of the standard that must be set with this project if Haskell is to grow its Southeast Asia footprint.
“To make its name, Haskell has to compete with a few companies from Europe, the UK and France,” he said. “We need to be a good player. We have to convince the client that we can deliver the perfect job for them at a high standard for safety and quality. We have to be very good in scheduling and very competitive in costing.”
Rahman is working with crews of 80 to 100 subcontractors at any given time. They are laborers from many different cultures with varying job skills. Since the 1990s, the Malaysian government has imposed stricter work rules that have brought safety to the forefront, Rahman said.
“I’d say that 80% to 90% of the crews understand what our standard is,” he said. “Haskell has set its standards and their safety requirements, and it is easier now than it was before.”
Nonetheless, on the first day a crew arrives, safety is stressed. It’s a case where the superintendent sets the standard.
“From the beginning when the subs sign the contract, they have been highlighted on the safety standard and what Haskell requires,” he said. “Every day before we start work, we have safety talks about the good and the bad findings from the day or week before.”
Rahman’s leadership style is one of delegation with oversight. He puts great trust in his six Haskell assistant project managers, whom he has briefed extensively about that day’s and week’s assignments. Frequent inspections throughout a task prevent costly rework.
“I will talk to the contractor and the project manager and engineer directly,” he said. “I will have them look over the work.”
On this job, Rahman can return home regularly. He’s a man of few diversions. After spending time with his wife and the children who are still home, he retires to his daily prayers and then works on reports to prepare for the next day.
“When I interviewed for this job with Haskell, I explained what I know about construction and what I can do on the job site,” he said. “I asked a few questions about Haskell’s policies on the job site and their overall policies. It didn’t take me long to decide to join Haskell.”
The man who has spent his life going from company to company, working project to project, learning new skills all along the way, had made a decision.
“I was ending my work life and looking toward retirement,” he said. “I think I can retire with Haskell.”
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