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Zarith Sofia Magad - Principal transport engineer, Mott MacDonald

INWED 2020 – The women of Mott MacDonald Zarith Magad

We catch up with some of the women in the team for INWED2020.

Today we spoke to Zarith Sofia Ahmad Magad, principal transport engineer, Singapore.

As a woman with a physical disability who comes from a minority racial group in Singapore, it is liberating to know that the opportunities afforded to me are based on my performance and are merit based alone.

What attracted you to join our team? And what do you value most about it?

As an engineer, I am most excited to work on challenging, high-profile projects. Before I joined the company, I got to know Mott MacDonald through the numerous infrastructure projects they worked on not only in Singapore but also around the world. They built a name for themselves here with the prestigious awards earned from the local Building and Construction Authority and Land Transport Authority for excellence in design, safety in design and sustainability. It was an obvious choice for me when I was ready to progress my fledging career to work for a global engineering consultancy with a reputation for technical excellence and sustainability.

I made only one job application – and luckily for me I was successful! I was immediately given the chance to design national road and rail infrastructure projects, such as the Marina Coastal Expressway, Hillview Flyover, Rochor MRT and Little India MRT Stations. Some of these infrastructures are now used by my family members and I on our daily commutes! As a Singaporean, I am proud that the outcomes of my engineering design have directly shaped my city.

As I reflect on the past seven years with Mott MacDonald, I am grateful for many opportunities I have received to work on iconic Singapore and regional infrastructure and there is so much that I have learned along the way. I have traded industry knowledge and sparred opinions with enthusiastic and curious industry practitioners, I have received invaluable advice and guidance from mentors who are global experts in their field, I have sat through the most insightful, uncomfortable, stimulating talks by thought leaders, I have been challenged many times beyond personal limits by encouraging managers, and I have been truly humbled by the sweetest and warmest friendships with my colleagues.

In addition to the exciting project opportunities, learning and development and solid friendships, I often say that I stick to an employer so long as my personal values align with the business. Mott MacDonald’s PRIDE (Progress, Respect, Integrity, Drive, Excellence) values, its company policies on sustainability, wellbeing and equality, and diversity and inclusion resonate with me on a truly personal level.

What cross-transferable skills do you think are important within engineering?

A skill that I think is important in engineering is being able to ask the right question. Most good engineers pride themselves as problem solvers, but they neglect priding themselves on asking the right questions. For example, a lot of engineers ask, “what do we need to do” and “how do we do it” but it’s equally and sometimes more important to ask, “why are we doing it”. Identifying what questions must be asked is needed before homing in on a suitable solution or solutions.

Many people also assume that engineering is largely a technical profession, but it is also about running a business and so requires marketing, commercial and communication skills and an acute awareness of multiple aspects of a business, so called business acumen. We do need to have technical skills, but we also need to be able to ‘sell’ our ideas. We need to be able to convince clients to choose us over others, for us to win more bids and secure more projects. These skills are needed where we might need to:

  • Persuade contractors to adopt our engineering solution as a safer option as opposed to a cheaper/faster alternative
  • Adequately negotiate with authorities on acceptance of our design submissions
  • Get team members on board with a clear plan to achieve team goals
  • Influence others to subscribe to a structured approach to a task
  • Or in more desperate situations, to negotiate an extended deadline.

Another skill we cannot afford to ignore, particularly in present times, is in the digital space. Knowledge and use of digital tools, software, applications, programmes to automate design, harvest large amounts of data, improve processes, enhance 3D visualisation, etc is a daily expectation. Coding and programming are skills that set engineers apart from their peers.

In your experience, what are the benefits of working in engineering?

In my opinion, there are countless benefits of working in engineering in general such as the work we do and how it directly impacts the outcomes on society, we have good career progression prospects, we have institutions to turn to for professional qualifications, resource, community & learning, and engineering is indeed fun!

I do also feel that working in engineering has given me opportunities to advance to a position of greater responsibility and influence that may not be so readily available in other sectors. As a woman with a physical disability who comes from a minority racial group in Singapore, it is liberating to know that the opportunities afforded to me are based on my performance and are merit based alone. In engineering what matters is what’s shown on the drawings and not who produced it.

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