Both the Institution of Civil Engineers and Buro Happold, who I joined on graduation, sponsored me through my Masters degree in Civil and Architectural Engineering at the University of Bath. I graduated with First Class Honours, the Charlie Wymer Prize for ‘Creative Ingenuity in Design’, and most importantly, two years of industrial experience which has helped to differentiate me from my peers. I implore consultancies to offer industrial placement opportunities to young engineers, and I urge young engineers to seize these opportunities.
Back in 2003, I wrote in my ICE Scholarship application that my ambition was to contribute to the design of a stadium, to gain international experience and to work on development projects. I am fortunate to have exceeded these ambitions within three years of graduation. I developed my structural design and analysis skills working on cable-net canopies, complex geometric steel structures, Brunel’s ss Great Britain and four international stadia. My career highlights are being given the opportunity to design the most iconic feature on a new stadium in London and the responsibility of delivering the concept to detailed design of an architectural long-span steel canopy in Armenia.
Although I love working in a design team, I wanted to broaden my skill set and gain site experience. Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to supervise the construction of multi-storey buildings for a multi-billion dollar female university in Saudi Arabia. I have implemented an effective quality control strategy, and simultaneously managed and developed my team of QC Engineers to identify and prevent quality defects. My ability to communicate to the diverse multinational workforce has encouraged a collaborative approach at site.
I have also spent six months volunteering with Engineer Without Borders in rural Nigeria; I went to Nigeria tasked with constructing conventional small concrete road culverts with the community. However, I saw an opportunity to instead build an innovative, low cost, sustainable alternative - a sandbag ring culvert that used local resources and recycled materials. Although I made a positive difference to the Nigerian community and the construction project in Saudi Arabia, I too have benefited from my experiences. It’s helped me to become enlightened, humbled and have a greater sense of adventure. Six years ago I had only ever been to one country; thanks to working internationally I have now had the opportunity to experience over 40! I encourage engineers to consider opportunities to work abroad.
Engineers have a duty to innovate and develop appropriate solutions, especially concerning international development. I have encouraged engineers to consider international development opportunities, both when I presented my development experience at the Royal Academy of Engineering and when I pitched a proposal to the ICE Training Executive. My commitment to engineering has seen me mentoring young engineers, tutoring at the University of Bath, promoting engineering at career fairs and continuing to support EWB.
I am confident that within ten years I will have had the opportunity to lead the design of an iconic example of sustainability. My concept is a stadium with grass terracing and a demountable lightweight roof that uses minimal embodied energy - it could be ideal for an Olympics!
I think it’s important to embrace local culture when working abroad; learning Arabic has warmed people to me, and has helped me challenge and overcome cultural stereotypes. I hope to receive a 2012 United Nations Alliance of Civilisations Fellowship, this will help me continue to develop stronger intercultural relations between Islamic and Western societies, and counter the forces that fuel polarisation and extremism.
With the economic slowdown, I hope Western engineering consultancies seize the opportunity to work with the developing world to find appropriate engineering solutions for their problems. To do this, consultancies need to encourage staff to work internationally. International experience has seen me develop and mature in a way that I could not have done in the UK. The responsibility I have received overseas has given me the opportunity to develop the necessary attributes to sit my ICE Chartered Professional Review at the age of 26. I hope to use ICE Membership as a springboard to further my development, accept greater responsibility and to seek broader opportunities to do things that matter, that inspire, and that contribute to societal development.