Safia Whitwham is an Assistant Site Manager working for the Osborne Infrastructure sector. She recently passed her Professional Review to successfully become a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. We catch up with her in the interview below:
Why Civil Engineering?
‘For a long time I thought I would go into a career in sport, but after a series of work experience placements during college I realised that, whilst I loved sport, I wasn’t passionate about any job this field. After the initial panic about my future path I threw myself into researching other options and this is when I first found out about Civil Engineering. After further investigation I realised it was the path for me – I could utilise my aptitude for maths and science but more importantly it was an opportunity to have a meaningful job, shaping the world around us.’
What made you pursue Chartership?
‘To become a Chartered Engineer you must demonstrate that you are professionally competent through education, training and professional practice. For me it is a great way to benchmark my professional competency and open up opportunities, particularly as Chartered Engineer is one of the most recognisable international engineering qualifications.
I also recognised the value of the process of becoming a Chartered Engineer in pushing me to the next level. I think that the requirements really challenge you to develop in all areas – from commercial and sustainability to leadership and interpersonal skills – not just technical engineering. All of these areas are so important in delivering a successful project and advancing in your career.’
How do you feel now you are Chartered?
‘I am mostly relieved that I don’t have to do it again! It was a tough process and I am so proud to have achieved this significant goal. I definitely feel more confident in my abilities and I am looking forward to the new responsibilities this will bring. ‘
What is your advice to others going for Chartership?
‘I would definitely recommend joining a preparation group, such as the written exercise group. This not only helps you to prepare for the professional review, it also connects you with other going for it at the same time as you. Having that support can be invaluable, from sounding ideas to help with frustrating editing issues; it was great to have someone else to turn to other than your mentor.’
You have previously had a lot of involvement with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) as a Graduate Member, how did this help you prepare?
‘I have been a part of the ICE London Graduate and Students group for almost 5 years, holding various roles including Chair. There have been so many benefits to being a part of this group that helped me to develop into a Chartered Engineer. I am able to connect with people from across the industry, staying up to date with new advances and innovations. I have also had some great opportunities including attending the ICE presidents’ dinner, getting a place at the Global Engineering Conference and visiting the newly built US embassy. These opportunities challenged my thinking and perceptions and gave me the tools to challenge working practice within my own area of influence. ‘
What is your next challenge?
‘Technology is having a huge impact on the future of infrastructure with the potential to decrease cost, deliver faster, reduce emissions and improve asset performance. There is some really exciting technology appearing on the market such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and smart buildings. With the changes in how we deliver, as well as what we deliver, I want to continue to learn and up-skill myself in this area in particular. I think coding will be one of the most important job skills of the future so I am investing time in learning how to code.
My current personal challenge is related to snowboarding; I have been trying to nail a 180 jump and also a 180-on and 180-off a box. Luckily now I have finished my Chartership I have some more time to spend at the snowdome practising. ‘
‘It sounds a bit cliché but my biggest inspiration is definitely my mum, she has always taught me to meet challenges head on, push my limits and work hard for my goals. Incidentally she also introduced me to the structure which most inspires me: she is a nurse and when I was 14 she took me to the opening of the Evelina Children’s Hospital. It was a really inspiring structure with a spacious conservatory, under a huge curved glazed roof that made you feel like you were outside. I love that it is a hospital that doesn’t feel like a hospital and for me it is a great example of how Civil Engineers can really impact on people’s lives.’
How can we encourage future generations into Civil Engineering?
‘The first, and most obvious, thing is to promote the industry. So many people don’t even know what Civil Engineering is, so how can they choose it as a career path? But for me the biggest thing will be showcasing existing talent from a diverse range of backgrounds – role models are so important for people to be able to imagine themselves in that role.’