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In our latest interview, we sat down with Saheem Ahmed, our Vice President of Geotechnical Services at HVJ North Texas. With a wealth of experience and passion for geotechnical engineering, Saheem sheds light on his passion for geotechnical engineering, the power of mentorship, and wisdom from almost 20 years in the industry.
1. Starting with some background about yourself, can you share how you got started in this field and what inspires you most in your work?
My interest in civil engineering goes back to childhood. I am inspired by the direct impact it has on people's lives. Ensuring the safety and stability of buildings, bridges, dams, and other critical infrastructures brings me a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
My academic journey led me to complete a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's in geotechnical engineering. It was during my geotechnical engineering classes that it clicked that I wanted to specialize in geotechnical services. I am fascinated by the interaction of the Earth's surface and the structures that we build upon it. From the complexities of soil mechanics, foundation design, and soil-structure interaction, geotechnical engineering is critical to ensuring infrastructure stability.
Post-graduation, my hands-on professional experiences reinforced my passion. I enjoy projects such as geotechnical site investigations and foundation design for infrastructure projects, levees and dams, slope stability, and settlement. As geotechnical engineers, we undertake a pivotal role in assessing and mitigating risks in construction projects. With each project comes a unique set of challenges, fueling my motivation to learn continuously and find innovative ways to solve problems.
Looking ahead, I am eager to keep expanding my knowledge in this field and contribute to projects that positively impact our stakeholders and communities. Geotechnical engineering has been a rewarding and fulfilling journey, and I am excited to see where it takes me in the future.
2. What is your role at HVJ, your favorite type of project/work, and why?
My role as the vice president for geotechnical services involves overseeing and managing a team of geotechnical engineers and technicians. I coordinate and lead various geotechnical projects, ensuring they are executed efficiently and up to the highest engineering standards. I collaborate with clients, conduct site investigations, analyze geotechnical data, and provide engineering recommendations. I like that this role allows me to contribute to successfully completing diverse projects.
One of my favorite aspects of being a Geotechnical Team Lead is the opportunity to engage, mentor, and guide engineers in different career stages. I believe in fostering a collaborative and supportive environment where knowledge sharing is encouraged. Witnessing the growth and development of my team members as they build their skills is incredibly rewarding. I take great pride in providing mentorship and guidance to help them grow their knowledge and careers.
3. What are the common types of problems that your customers are trying to solve? What do you think draws them specifically to HVJ?
HVJ stands out due to our firm commitment to transparent and responsive communication. Recognizing the inevitability of unforeseen challenges, we prioritize keeping our clients informed throughout the projects.
We work on projects of all sizes and scopes and always emphasize delivering project documents promptly. From the beginning, we establish a well-defined plan outlining the deliverable schedule and aligning it with project milestones and deadlines. This proactive approach allows us to allocate resources efficiently and streamline our processes.
To maintain a smooth workflow, we ensure that draft and final boring logs, memorandums for each structure, and other essential documents are delivered on time. We continuously track the deliverables and compare actual progress against the planned schedule. This ongoing monitoring allows us to identify potential deviations early on and take proactive measures to mitigate risks or address issues promptly. If an unexpected delay occurs, we proactively communicate with our clients, presenting feasible solutions and revised timelines to minimize the impact on the overall project schedule.
Our commitment to open communication and following to the deliverable schedule sets HVJ apart, fostering trust and collaboration. We are dedicated to delivering not only excellent engineering solutions but also a positive and seamless client experience.
4. Can you briefly describe one of your recent projects and what you found most interesting or rewarding? What was the most significant achievement that came out of the project?
In a recent infrastructure project, I had the opportunity to mentor an engineer who had not yet worked on a project with the specific complexities we faced. What was truly rewarding was witnessing his growth and transformation throughout the project. His dedication, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn were evident, and his contributions were invaluable to the team.
To facilitate a smooth learning curve, I initiated regular knowledge-sharing sessions where we discussed the technical aspect of each assignment at the beginning. These sessions served as a platform for open dialogue, allowing my colleague to ask questions, express concerns, and gain a deeper understanding of the design approach and analyses.
As the project progressed, I encouraged my colleague to take an active role in various aspects, such as data analysis and design discussions. By assigning him tasks that aligned with his skill set while gradually introducing more complex geotechnical concepts, he gained hands-on experience. He developed a comprehensive understanding of the project's requirements.
Our collaboration was a mutually beneficial experience. Through mentorship, open communication, and gradual skill development, he contributed effectively to the project's success and expanded his professional experience, demonstrating the potential for growth and achievement within our industry.
5. One of HVJ's promises is a commitment to ongoing learning. What resources or training opportunities have you found to be most helpful?
The Generative Leadership Training is an ongoing learning opportunity I have greatly valued at HVJ. The training is undeniably transformative for individuals seeking to excel as both effective team members and exceptional leaders. I learned a wealth of knowledge and skills to impact my personal growth and professional success.
Through this training, participants embark on a journey of self-discovery and development. I like the focus on fostering an environment of collaboration, innovation, and empowerment within teams. One important takeaway was a thorough understanding of my leadership style, strengths, and areas for improvement.
As a team leader, I found it vital to learn the principles of effective communication and active listening to have a productive team dynamic. The training helped me better analyze complex situations, anticipate challenges, and make informed choices that align with the team's objectives and vision. I appreciate HVJ's commitment to offering this learning opportunity and believe that it has positioned me to further advance in both the organization and industry.