Associate Director – Engineering for Life Science & Pharmaceuticals
Embarking on a career in the built environment was the achievement of a lifelong ambition for Siti Jamaludin - yet it was only the beginning of the journey. From graduate to design consultant to construction engineer, Siti joined Mace in 2014, and now leads on engineering in the Life Sciences & Pharmaceuticals sector, tackling the complex challenges this fast-growing business area presents.
- How did you get into engineering?
Since childhood, I have always been fascinated with structures – whether it was the Empire State Building, the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge or Sydney Opera House. I would spend hours in the library reading books (there was no such thing as the internet) and marvel over such design and construction that contributed to society. My favourite childhood time was my daily playtime with my Lego – always competing with my brother and cousins to create the tallest, largest structure in the living room.
So, I guess I’m lucky that, at a very young age, I knew that structural and construction engineering was a career I would like to excel in. With a curious mind and a keen eye for how things work, I graduated with a Civil and Structural Engineering degree in 2000. I started my career as a graduate structural design engineering consultant, mastering my design skills over 7 years.
I soon got bored sitting in front of a computer producing technical drawings. I decided to cross the bridge from being a design consultant to a construction engineer, to ‘get my hands dirty’ creating a tangible product from a set of design drawings.
Having done a 2-year stint as a construction project manager in Singapore, I moved back to London and joined Mace in 2014 – solving construction challenges to build, clean, maintain and use (or re-use) safer and better buildings.
- What do you enjoy about your current role at Mace?
I truly enjoy working on pre-construction work and advising on design with regards to buildability. It gives me the opportunity to get my creative and problem-solving muscles going, collaborating on ideas and developing technical yet practical solutions for real-life application.
It’s the collaborative working ethos and learning culture within the diverse teams I work with which makes me get up with a spring underfoot every morning. When everyone is open to ideas and demonstrates the willingness to listen, sharing and learning from one another, this makes a fun and enjoyable place to work every day.
- How do you redefine the boundaries of ambition?
My role as the engineering lead for the Life Science & Pharma sector requires me to seek better ways of working and to share knowledge with others. So, my role automatically enables me to contribute towards Mace’s purpose to grow together, building a sustainable world and delivering distinctive results. With the urgency to protect our fragile environment, one of my key motivations is to challenge each building design proposal and construct with its optimum low carbon opportunities. This involves working together with the client’s team, design team and our supply chain to achieve the best possible outcome.
- What's been your proudest achievement at Mace so far?
To be honest, I can’t pick one project to be in the limelight because every project I’m involved in is my proudest achievement. For me, it is not about the project itself but the people I work with and what we achieve together that makes me proud to work at Mace. I have been fortunate that the teams I work with make every day a fun day to go to work.
- What motivates you every day?
My belief that I’m able to make a difference to our community and society by delivering a quality product with a purpose. Making this journey with amazing design and construction teams, and our supply chain, is what keeps me going, even if the going gets tough.
- What skills do you need to be good at your job?
Definitely being a good listener, facilitator and negotiator with strong technical engineering skills. My role requires me to be an interpreter, translating complicated technical speak into simple language that everyone can understand. An inquisitive mind and a ‘nothing is impossible’ mindset will also go a long way.
- What advice would you give to someone looking to get into engineering?
Start from the bottom to learn and master the basics and the fundamentals of engineering. Be humble and let go of your ego. Be a sponge for knowledge, not data or information. Treat every day as a school day – always try to learn something new every day at work. To be an exceptional construction engineer, you must have the ability to demonstrate design skills as well as site construction skills. Never be afraid to get your hands dirty, even if it means you have to shovel wet concrete or fix reinforcement bars on site. These types of manual work will give you greater appreciation of practical and safe ways of working when developing engineering solutions to problems. The journey to becoming a competent engineer takes at least 10 years, because construction engineering is a vast subject, but the reward and job satisfaction from being an engineer is worth the wait. I’m in the second decade of my career and I’m still learning and excited to be at work every day.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
All my passions involve being outdoors – my top 3 activities are diving expeditions, skiing and hiking on the mountains. Being outdoors and at one with nature is what keeps me grounded and balanced, so I make a point of taking time out from my hectic work life. I also volunteer my engineering skills with UK International Search & Rescue (UKISAR). They are made up of volunteers from the UK Fire and Rescue Service and I work closely with them as their structural engineering advisor. The UKISAR team is deployed to any natural disaster zone requested by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, so this role allows me to use my engineering skills in a humanitarian capacity.
- If you hadn’t got into this line of work what do you think you might be doing?
Either a paediatric cardiac surgeon, a trauma medical specialist or a research marine biologist. There’s a common theme to my childhood ambitions and my current career path. It’s all about giving back to society, problem solving and high adrenaline. My role at Mace gives me the same satisfaction as any of my childhood ambitions would – even though there are times where I daydream what it would be like if I spent my days diving in the deep blue ocean, carrying out research work on humpback whales and orcas.
“An inquisitive mind and a ‘nothing is impossible’ mindset goes a long way.”