The first time Alminko Dugic got in a 70-meter-high crane, he didn’t even know how to turn it on. Even though he had taken the requisite course for the job, it turned out to be “totally useless.”

Due to safety issues, students were not actually allowed to do any practical training. So when they first step into the cabin of the colossal machine, they are often just left to “wing it.”

“I nearly s— my pants,” as he so delicately put it.

Luckily Dugic (30) had been brought to the profession by his brother-in-law, who helped him get opportunities to practice on construction sites on his own time. The controls, he discovered, were not so different from the joysticks on a PlayStation, which is why he thinks the job’s better suited for people of his generation.

However, operating an actual crane, which can lift up to 16 tons, is no game. “Everybody thinks that all we do is sit up there and do nothing but sleep,” Dugic observed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not unusual that a crane operator must work non-stop through a 12-13 hour shift “without even a minute to take a sip of water.”

After 12 years, Dugic sees his job as the most important position on the construction site. “You are the end-all and be-all, the first and the last on the site. If something has not been hung correctly, it’s your responsibility to point it out. You have to be 100 percent alert every day.”

The perks of crane operating echo its burdens, and at times achieve the poetic. While you must oversee fellow workers and safety issues on the towering construction sites, you also get a breathtaking view of the city. This is Dugic’s favorite part of the job.

“That bird’s eye view tops everything. If you’re having a bad day and then look around, then you think, Vienna is cool, I’m not going anywhere.”

Sometimes when I’m driving down the street, I pass by a building and think, hey, I built that! That’s a great feeling. – I’ve helped to build Austria.