Education and qualifications:
PhD, Construction Management, London South Bank University
MSc, Civil Engineering, University of East London
B.Tech (Hons), Civil Engineering, Preston University (Pakistan)
Diploma of Associate Engineer, Civil Engineering, Board of Technical Education, Pakistan
Job title: Lecturer, Civil Engineering
Company: A’Sharqiyah University, Oman
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
Engineers have a key role in facilitating the comfort of life of mankind through their engineering projects and innovation. I developed a keen interest in engineering, especially civil engineering, when I was in secondary school. I was always inspired by engineers constructing roads and buildings and used to make models of buildings and houses out of empty cartons. At that time I began to seriously consider pursuing further study in civil engineering.
I started my career in 2003 as a Junior Engineer in a local municipality in Pakistan having completed a Higher Diploma in Civil Engineering. During this job I was able to complete a Bachelor (Hons) degree in Civil Engineering in 2008. I then moved to London where I completed a Masters in Civil Engineering at the University of East London in 2009. At this time I also worked as a Research Assistant in the Soil Structure Interaction Group at the university, which allowed me to polish my research skills. I then returned to Pakistan and joined Cantonment Board Walton (a local municipal organisation) as Senior Engineer. Two years later I moved to the Sultanate of Oman and took on my current role as a Lecturer at A’Sharqiyah University. I have recently completed a PhD in Construction Management from London South Bank University.
Please describe your role or position in your workplace
I am a Lecturer in Civil Engineering and teach a variety of courses including Materials and its Mechanics, Transportation and Traffic Engineering, Surveying, GIS Applications, Geology and Geotechnical Engineering, and Renewable Energy. My current role also includes the management of five different laboratories, including transportation engineering, materials and structures, geology and surveying laboratories. Monitoring health and safety in the laboratories and workplace is another key responsibility, which I look after as a safety representative and as a member of the university Health and Safety committee.
Research is also an integral component of my current role. This involves conducting research in areas of interest, pursuing publication in international journals and presenting at international conferences. Writing research proposals, seeking funding from internal and external research funding agencies and collaborating on research with other organisations and researchers are some of the main activities of my current role in Oman. My research interest includes Construction Management, Waste and Resource Management, Construction Materials, and Renewable and Sustainability Energy. I have collaborated with different universities and its academic staff and have published a number of papers in highly reputed research journals and conference proceedings.
Can you describe a typical working day?
Usually my working day starts by reporting to my workplace at 7:30 am. However, each day includes different activities related to teaching, research and meetings. Teaching normally take place in the classroom, but laboratory experiments are conducted in the relevant laboratory. Apart from regular class hours, each day has specific hours designated for office hours and advising. This time is for the students if they want to see me in relation to academic queries or they want academic advice related to their course or programme. Similarly, I make sure that I have at least three hours for my research-related activities.
Research activities includes meeting with the collaborators, conducting laboratory experiments to obtain results, reviewing literature, writing research proposals and papers, and revising research papers based on the comments received from the reviewers and editors.
My current role also requires me to work on a number of committees, either as a committee member or chair, meaning I need to attend those meetings. As an approved mentor for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), I need to spare some time to review the progress of the graduate engineers who are working towards membership.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Academic roles in the universities are usually complex and challenging in nature. Students being human are gifted with different level of abilities, so some students may pick things easily and some of them will struggle. When it comes to teaching and learning, each student becomes important to me as I need to ensure that they get the best learning experience and complete their studies in the required period of time.
Teaching and learning become more challenging when there are struggling students is a class. This means the two things that are priorities for me are that I deliver all the learning outcomes of the courses and that all students achieve these outcomes at required level. I need to find and use innovative teaching methods that can help to meet the requirements of struggling students.
Similarly, I do want to mention research as one of the challenging aspects of my current role. The Civil Engineering discipline is advancing, but it is quite slow when compared to other branches of engineering, which can restrict research opportunities. I therefore need to target key areas where there is a potential for research and then find gaps in knowledge to focus on for that research. Active research collaborations with a number of researchers around the world have helped me overcome the challenges associated with the research.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Teaching is one of the most enjoyable areas of my job. It gives me real satisfaction when I see the progress of my students and that satisfaction further increases when finally my students graduate and are awarded with their degrees. In a similar way, the ultimate satisfaction from successfully leading the research team on a specific project comes when the project is accomplished. I feel proud when I see my research papers published in respected journals, particularly when my name is on the top of the authors list.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
2019 was a great year in terms of professional achievements. I was awarded two research-related awards by my university and was also able to successfully defend my PhD thesis in front of the examination board at London South Bank University.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
After graduating I realised that being a Graduate Engineer and being a Chartered Engineer (CEng) are significantly different from each other and believe that to call yourself an engineer you should be recognised by an international professional engineering body. This forced me to research which organisation and which professional title I should pursue. I decided that the CEng title would be most appropriate for me because I had graduated from a UK university and the title is recognised worldwide.
I became a Graduate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in 2010 and the process towards CEng registration was very straightforward. I was able to complete my Initial Professional Development (IPD) in late 2014 and had my Professional Review Interview in late 2016.
The process took seven years after completing my Masters degree. I used both my industry and research experience to satisfy the requirements of registration. For the assessment, it takes time to make sure you have satisfied all the requirements for CEng registration. I mapped out my experience against each area to demonstrate that I met the required level of competence and commitment.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
CEng registration is a great achievement in my career. It recognises my academic qualifications and my experience and has allowed me to add another professional qualification to my CV, making me more desirable to employers.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
In the engineering industry professional registration is very important, so becoming a CEng benefits my employer as well. By having professionally registered staff, my employer can demonstrate to industry partners that its staff are committed to keeping their knowledge, understanding and skills up to date.
Is there any advice would you pass on to someone considering professional registration?
My advice to all professionals working in the engineering industry is to pursue registration through the most relevant professional engineering institution for them. There are many different pathways available to satisfy the academic requirement if your degree is not accredited. Engineers with extensive experience in the industry can use this to satisfy the academic requirement if they don’t have a degree. Overseas experience is recognised as there is no requirement for CEng registration to have experience of working in the UK. There are many routes available and your institution will also support you.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future career goals?
My future goals include to pursue Fellowship with ICE, aiming to achieve that in the next five years or before I reach forty. I also aim to achieve the next academic rank (i.e. Associate Professor) in the next five years and to expand my research network, secure research grants and produce high impact journal papers.
Do you participate in any other career-related activities, such as mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am an approved mentor for ICE and support graduate engineers in the region to become professionally registered engineers. I am also working as member of the ICE Oman committee which runs the local ICE branch. As a committee we organize learning events, have established a relationship with the Oman Society of Engineers, and engage with the government and private sector to highlight the importance of professional qualifications.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering?
I often discuss buildings and roads with my six year-old daughter, to enhance her understanding and develop her interest in engineering. However, sometimes she asks questions and I struggle to find appropriate answers that she can understand. It is always difficult to find the best answer to her question, considering her age and level of understanding. Such discussion is always enjoyed by me and my family.