Julian Ha is senior consultant with Foodservice Consultants Australia (FCA) and an FCSI associate. He discusses his career and the importance of listening
We specialise in healthcare projects for aged care and hospitals as well as foodservice requirements for prison environments. We are also involved in quite a number of high-end restaurants around Australia.
The foodservice sector is never mundane. Every project is unique, with its own complexity and intricacies. The art of design is to determine the most suitable layout that will best suit the client’s way of working. The challenge is every chef works differently. What works for one, may not work for another.
As a child, I was curious about how things worked. I would take things apart to figure out how they worked. Naturally I wanted to study mechanical engineering and graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1995.
I started working in a water treatment plant company. After a year, I decided that I would much prefer to work in the clean end of the industry. When a foodservice design company advertised for a mechanical engineer, I quickly took it up. Over time, I slowly moved to the design department.
Being an FCSI member means that we can be proud in saying that FCA is an independent consulting company that has no association with an equipment supplier nor will benefit from specifying any equipment. The designs that we produce are tailored to the needs of our clients.
The biggest challenge for the sector, especially in the Asia Pacific region, is recognition from governing bodies. If achieved, clients who engage an FCSI consultant will get a design endorsed (in a way) by those bodies.
The biggest challenge for consultants is many contracting companies provide a design consultancy service at a reduced cost by supplementing income from the supply of equipment. This means designs could be biased and based on the equipment they can supply – and may not be a design that is best for the clients’ needs.
The most important lesson I have learnt in the industry is to be humble and to be able to take constructive criticism. It is important we listen to what the client wants and dissect their problems to provide solutions.
My advice to younger consultants is never be afraid to voice your opinion, but always listen first. Learn to walk before you start to run.