Bridging the gap to a more rewarding career
Less than two years after undertaking the Skills 4 Career Development Programme, Chama has been promoted twice and travelled halfway across the world to play a leading role in a major infrastructure project in Qatar.
“I never imagined my career would skyrocket so soon after the programme, but it did,” says Chama.
Chama graduated with 1st class honours in Civil Engineering (MEng) at the University of Sheffield. She has over five years’ experience working within the Highway Structures sector, specialising in bridge design, and is currently working towards becoming professionally chartered with the Institution of Civil Engineers.
As a structural designer for Arcadis, the global Design & Consultancy firm for natural and built assets, she is currently working on the New Orbital Highway as the contractor’s designer on site in Qatar. The project is a 47km highway with eight junctions, including several complex structures such as pre-stressed bridges, tunnels, mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls and underpasses.
“It’s been an interesting journey getting here,” says Chama, “And many of the lessons I learnt on the Career Development Programme about being assertive, projecting an air of confidence, aiming high when negotiating, not being afraid to take risks and networking have without a doubt contributed to my success.
“My current role is at times challenging and often high pressure. Working on a construction site in the Middle East can be an intimidating experience, particularly as a woman, as cultural biases do still exist. The training I had really helped to prepare me for these challenges, especially the lessons on how to communicate in an assertive manner. It boosted my confidence and helped me grow as a person as my responsibilities increased as well as helping to shape my relationships with the people I have met along the way.”
She recalls how the training literally paid off for her when it came to negotiate a better pay package as her responsibilities increased.
“I spent six months on secondment proving my worth getting paid on a UK salary which was around one-third of what it would be working full- time in Qatar,” she said. “During the Career Development Programme we did a role play on asking for a pay rise and that is something I definitely used to my advantage when it came to negotiating my salary from a UK to Qatar contract.”
While she is enjoying the challenge of her role in Qatar, she is looking at further opportunities to develop her career on the commercial contracting side of the business.
“As my career has progressed, I’ve realised that opportunities arise from networking and building relationships, taking ownership of crafting your own professional image and showcasing your abilities. Networking and professional image are among just some of the practical subjects the training touches on.
“If you had told me two years ago that I would be here doing what I am doing and done what I have done I wouldn’t have believed you,” says Chama. “It is difficult to quantify what the Skills 4 training has done for my career.
“It has undoubtedly unlocked my inner confidence. The training acts as the mentor you never had when entering the workplace and I can’t speak highly enough of the impact it has had on me.”