Susanna Truong Table Mountain

Day in the life - Susanna Truong

We talk to Susanna Truong, one of our solicitors based in South Africa. In this, we discuss the wide range of projects she has been exposed to, working across multiple countries and how her career has progressed since joining Systech.

Susanna is an Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyer (qualified in England and Wales, 3 years PQE) specialising in international construction and engineer projects.

She is currently seconded into the client’s offices in Johannesburg, South Africa working on all upstream FIDIC contract disputes in relation to the construction of two coal fire power stations. The combination of these two power stations makes it the biggest power project to be built, to date.

What is your typical day?

A typical day would depend on where we are in the life cycle of the disputes. At present, we have two disputes running concurrently and are due to commence a further two in the next few months.

This means that on any particular day I could be assisting on procedural issues, liaising with experts, opposing counsel and tribunal members, drafting correspondence, assisting with the forensic investigation, dealing with disclosure of documents, interviewing witnesses, drafting submissions/pleadings or preparing for a hearing.

"My advice for anyone thinking about or actually joining Systech would be to be as open-minded as possible. From a personal point of view, the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I have had have come off the back of the unknown."

What are the interesting aspects of your work?

Working in Johannesburg is certainly an interesting aspect of the work. Despite its reputation as being a dangerous place, it is a vibrant city with kind and friendly locals.

In addition, working in-house for a major Japanese Contractor means that we are immersed in a multicultural and diverse environment surrounded by a variety of languages as well as disciplines.

I have had the opportunity of working in a number of cities around the world in my time with Systech (Dubai, Singapore, Doha and Johannesburg) and have found that adapting into a new working environment is always an exciting element of the job.

What are the challenges?

As expected on any construction or engineering project, the work is highly technical and complex in nature so becoming familiar with i.e. the intricacies of the mechanical boiler works or the delay analysis of a claim can be challenging.

However, the benefit of working in-house at the client’s offices, in and amongst various disciplines, is that it broadens your understanding holistically and in a way that you simply won’t get working from the “ivory tower” of solicitors’ offices.

I genuinely believe we are able to provide better, commercially sound, legal advice as a result of our understanding of the day to day technical and commercial issues encountered by the client. This has certainly contributed to my development into a well-rounded lawyer.

What training and support has Systech given you?

Having started with the firm as a paralegal in 2014, Systech’s support and training has been instrumental to my development and I can confidently say it has made me the lawyer I am today.

Throughout the years, Systech has provided training weekends, sponsored me for a 3 year Masters in Construction Law and Arbitration and supported me in obtaining my Fellowship to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, all with a view of developing my specialism in this area of law.

However, more fundamentally, I feel that the firm is truly invested in my personal development, having received mentorship from various senior lawyers who have assisted and guided my career decisions.
It is because of this that we understand the importance of giving back to paralegals and trainees who were once in our position.

What words of advice would you offer someone thinking of working for Systech?

My advice for anyone thinking about or actually joining Systech would be to be as open-minded as possible. From a personal point of view, the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I have had have come off the back of the unknown.

Moving to new cities, taking on tasks outside of my knowledge base and generally pushing myself outside of my comfort zone has been vital to broadening my skill set.

What is the culture like?

The culture at Systech is often described as horizontal. From my personal experience this means, as a junior, you will be asked for your opinion and will be given a platform to be heard. This is something that I found refreshing in comparison to the strict hierarchical structure of normal firms.

This also means that you are not necessarily confined to your role and will be given the opportunity to take on as much responsibility as you can handle. The firm very much recognises potential and provides a nurturing environment for growth.

How has working for Systech helped you achieve your career goals?

My main career goal was to be involved in something that was satisfying and rewarding. I always envisioned working in an area of law that was dynamic and fast-paced and I certainly feel I have found that working on construction disputes.

Beyond this, I also wanted to work internationally, on global projects, and this is exactly what working for Systech has given me the opportunity to do.

What makes working for Systech different from the competition?

The integrated relationship between Systech International and Systech Solicitors means that it is able to provide a multidisciplinary and combined service for its clients, unmatched by any competition.

The benefit for those who work for Systech Solicitors means seamless access to a wide pool of knowledge and expertise on commercial, engineering, project management, delay and quantum issues.

What has been your greatest achievement working for Systech?

My greatest achievement, to date, has been my contribution to a team responsible for recovering the largest sum of money in Systech’s history for a single dispute. This is reflective of not only our great team work but also the quality of work that we are involved in day in day out.

I am proud to say that I work on a team that achieves positive results for a client that we have built a strong relationship with.

Tell us about a project where you have learnt a key lesson?

A valuable lesson that can be learnt from these current projects in South Africa is the importance of records and the retainment of information.

Unfortunately, major delays affecting these projects have resulted in high turn-over of personnel and the loss of vital information. In turn, this has hindered our ability to demonstrate the delays and costs incurred.