Career Path: Kayin Dawoodi of Arup and charity Bridges to Prosperity

Arup structural engineer Kayin Dawoodi, 31, is a founder of the Bridges to Prosperity charity and among other project is involved in the the National Museum of Qatar development.

Kayin Dawoodi on a Bridges for Prosperity project in Rwanda

 Why did you decide to go into engineering?

I always thought that I wanted to study architecture, as I have a passion to work on projects that could benefit society. However, I was disappointed at how little technical work was involved in my first year of study. Three key events led to my discovery of structural engineering: 

1. Studying alongside civil engineering students at Bath University and winning a competition run by the engineering department using not only architectural influences but also implementing robust engineering principles.

2. A presentation by a guest structural engineer on the British Museum's Great Court Roof, which clearly illustrated the influence of engineering over unified form and function, exciting both my analytical and artistic sides.

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3. Querying an architectural lecturer about sizing a critical column integral to an architectural project I had been working on and being told "don't worry, that's the engineer's problem". I felt it was my problem and so imagined that I must be an engineer.

So what happened?

I changed to a structural engineering degree at University College London, where the course had a strong focus on holistic design, therefore not having to entirely forfeit my passion for architecture. I combined this with biomimicry, expanding my horizons in inter-disciplinary relationships.

Who was your first employer and why?

My first job was with Alan Baxter & Associates, who drew me in with their pragmatic, pure approach to design, still using drawing boards and carrying out calculations with a pencil and paper.

CV highlights since?

A key highlight has been leading the design, coordination, management and construction of Bridges to Prosperity's Muregeya Bridge project in Rwanda – for which my contributions have been recognised by the Institution of Structural Engineers in winning the 2014 Young Structural Engineering Professional of the Year Award.

I am also proud to have been invited to join B2P's Technical Advisory Board)as a Founding Trustee of the charity’s first satellite charitable organisation outside of the US. The creation of this Trust aims to extend the reach of B2P into Europe and is already attracting some high profile interest.

Teaching structural engineering fundamentals to architecture students at IE University in Segovia, Spain for three years running was also a highlight.

What is the best thing so far in your career?

Getting involved with Bridges to Prosperity, hands down – three years ago, the Charity was building 10-15 bridges per year in developing countries around the world where people lack basic access to essential services such as hospitals, schools and trade. Bridges are catalysts for improvement. Now we are building 30-40 bridges per year, and in three years we aim to be building over 100 bridges per year. This growth is requiring some creative lateral thinking into how an organisation of 12 employees can achieve so much with so little and as a member of the Technical Advisory Board I am able to contribute to this all whilst working with some incredible and inspirational leading engineers from various firms around the world. The impact is measurable and tangible, B2P having completed al?most 200 bridges worldwide so far. Being able to help in this most incredible of missions is incredibly rewarding and provides an ideal conduit to sharing my skills with those who can make the most of them.

Did you have a career plan? How has reality panned out against that plan

Architecture was my plan! I decided that was my career plan when I was five years old. After getting over my intense disappointment of the subject, engineering sort of found me, as I had not really heard about it before going to university (sowing early seeds for my current personal desire to better promote the profession). My passion is to facilitate intelligent designs for clients in the betterment of projects and society on the whole.

Why did you move to Arup?

I joined Arup a year after graduating when I moved to Spain to be with my then fiancée. I had always been in awe of Arup projects, and still am! The quality of the work environment and of the projects are a catalyst to nurturing my own ideals of engineering. The firm is independently owned so allows an unusual degree of freedom in pursuing avenues, such as that with Bridges to Prosperity.

Describe your job

I have worked on over 50 projects over eight years, some with greater responsibility than others. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a fantastic array of diverse, geometrically complex, unusual and socially inspirational projects including Bridges to Prosperity, Metropol Parasol in Seville, the National Museum of Qatar, Arnhem Station, the Valencia Football Stadium, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Selfridges on Oxford Street. I would say that my job is about making challenging projects work efficiently, and I do this by tapping into new technologies and skills, and tapping into my own abilities around design and coordination.

Who has had the most influence over your career and why?

My wife, children, friends and colleagues from many offices; who have always been there and without whose support I would not have been able to accomplish the things that I have – It’s all about the team!

What keeps you interested?

My passion for the development of anything and everything that makes our societies tick, from art to science. There is so much to do and so little time! People are at the centre of all the work that we do as engineers. With my own children as catalysts, I would like to leave our planet in a better place than when I joined it.

What can employers offer to make you most happy in your career?

Responsibility and freedom to develop my own ideas by working with clients and similarly open-minded individuals.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Believe in yourself - it's hard to build confidence when you are surrounded by so many voices with differing opinions and I am finding out now that my ideas aren’t all that bad. I only wish I could have expressed them sooner.

What is the one thing you have done that has been fundamental to your career?

Sharing – everything I have learnt I have been keen to pass on and share. I believe that through transparency we learn better and others can learn from you. I like to think that I am approachable and I’m always up for a coffee.

Check out a Bridges to Prosperity video story  by clicking here


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