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Can diversity help reduce 'anxiety' around adopting new tech tools?


Article first published in Construction Week Online to coincide with Girls in ICT day on Thursday 22 April 2021

Regardless of gender, being a champion for new technologies can be challenging in the construction sector because people tend to resist new ways of doing things

Exploring contemporary designs and architectural masterpieces was more than just an interest for me back in my school days. It grew with me more and more as I accompanied my father to the workplace –he was an architect with vast experience across different regions. He was my main inspiration, and as a result, I have pursued a career in architecture.

More to the point, I was able to couple my interest and career aspirations with technology, as it is one of the most important dimensions in this industry. Sketching artwork and projects has evolved significantly throughout the years, and I believe this was my big advantage and added value. I was able to quickly develop my skills in new systems and become one of the main reference points in the workplace at an early stage.

While many others were still working in a 2D platform, I was already developing all my projects in a 3D environment, with its benefits of accelerating project delivery and quality. This shift to advanced technology was well appreciated and supported by Khatib & Alami (K&A), in line with its digitalization strategy.

Although I never considered being female would become a challenge in the workplace, it’s unarguable that women in my profession are significantly outnumbered, and this creates different expectations.

For example, training and development sessions for architects are typically led by men, who are also likely to have been in the industry for a long time. By contrast, technology-related training is more likely to be led by someone more youthful, and when they also happen to be female it can take some adjustment for the trainees.

However, I was always determined to achieve my goal, and my focus was always clear, and with the support of the team, I have been able to overcome such challenges and prove that I can be a respected instructor, irrespective of the target audience.

I understand why some women are worried about their future at work; however, the extra responsibility of having a young child and taking care of a family will be only for a limited time.

The only challenge is to find the support needed to get through the rough phase when help from both the family and employer is crucial.

Over the last year, I was able to prepare and publish the K&A BIM Practice Manual, provide training and support to all staff across K&A design centers, prepare automated audit and quality reviews to be used for all K&A projects, and submit a major schools project in KSA for which I acted as a senior architect and BIM manager.

Our BIM team worked intensively on ensuring standardization across all offices. We have just renewed our British Standards Institution (BSI) Certification and become ISO 19650 certified for all K&A offices. This move made sure that all our teams are working together in an even more productive way.

We are currently working with our in-house BIM developer on new automation tools, developing generative design, and computational design using algorithms. And perhaps surprisingly, our developer is a woman – she is raising two girls while delivering great work for K&A.

Regardless of gender, being a champion for new technologies can be challenging in the construction sector because people tend to resist new ways of doing things, especially if they’re being taken outside of their comfort zones. That’s human nature, and it means that you have to have strong people skills to encourage and cajole them into overcoming their concerns, and to convince them to stick with it even during difficult periods.

Technology will soon play part in all future jobs, with a whole variety of innovations, robotics and automation set to conquer all industries. This is one reason why it is so important to attract people from diverse backgrounds into technology careers because this will help to lessen the general anxiety around adopting new tools and innovations. It will enable us to demystify technology so people see it as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Design is a passion for me, and I try to benefit as much as possible from BIM and technology to deliver higher quality projects. I find working with BIM very exciting because it is always moving forward, and I have been able to develop its use within K&A. It gives me a wider knowledge and understanding of design and construction.

I love what I do and hope to inspire others to join the sector because we’re still only at the start of unlocking BIM’s potential to improve efficiency, quality and sustainability.