Career Coach: Gatwick construction project manager tips for moving up the career ladder
Be flexible. Be open to opportunities as they arise. And take calculated risks. Those are the three main attributes that a young engineer needs to progress up the career ladder, according to Bechtel’s Gatwick construction project manager Monya Alkhalisi.
With almost 15 years of experience behind her, Alkhalisi is keen to offer any pearls of wisdom to the next generation. Her own career has seen her work on projects in Canada, Italy and the UK. It has seen Alkhalisi move from the oil and gas sector, before moving to work on Crossrail and she has now landed a role in the aviation arena.
Her varied career path is something Alkhalisi says has been ‘integral’ to her professional progression.
“When I was starting out I was lucky enough to have several offers, including the programme at Bechtel,” she says.
“The graduate programme gave me some hands on experience, some design work and also introduced me to project management roles.”
She continues: “My career progression has really been driven by taking opportunities as they arise.
“This has led me to working in oil and gas, mining, rail and now aerospace. With each move I have learnt and been able to take that into my new role.”
Joining Bechtel in 2006 as part of the firm’s graduate scheme Alkhalisi has moved around within the company.
This level of diversity and experience is something she says multi-national companies are able to offer, that perhaps smaller firms are unable to.
“It is good to work with different clients both in the UK and overseas. I think it gives you an appreciation that different places work to different standards and different clients demand different things.
“I have been fortunate enough to work on projects in Canada, in the Middle East and in the UK.
“I would recommend young engineers to take the opportunity to work abroad if it arises. Even if it seems like a sideways step in terms of career progression it could lead to a step up at a later date.”
She adds: “It is good to have a career development plan, but it is important to remain flexible and to remain open to opportunities that you hadn’t previously thought of.
“The most important thing is to ensure you keep pushing yourself to try new things and learn new skills.”
In order to inspire the next generation Alkhalisi regularly visits primary schools. As well as talking to students as young as six years old (including her son’s class), Alkhalisi is passionate about being actively involved in promoting engineering to young girls.
“I think it is very important that once you have reached a certain point in your career you try to inspire future engineers.
“Especially as a woman, I think it is very important for young girls to see people like me and realise that engineering is a potential career path for them as well as the more traditionally female-dominated jobs that they may be thinking about.
“I think the younger we address that, the better.”