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Shyam · Career Insights

Shyam works as a senior design manager in Saudi Arabia, overseeing some of the most exciting developmental projects in the region. Find out more about his career journey:

Could you walk us through your educational background and what led you to construction?

My passion in the built environment stemmed from my extended family who worked within the property development sector in Central London. I was mostly interested in seeing the renovation and transformation of often derelict unused buildings into high-end luxury residential projects. It is through early exposure to these types of projects, along with strong academic grades in humanities subjects which forged a natural path to higher education. I graduated in 2011, after completing a BSc in Geography and Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Birmingham, UK. in 2012, I enrolled in a distance learning PgDip in Surveying Practise at The College of Estate Management (UCEM), UK whilst conducting work experience at several prestigious surveying consultancy firms in London. In 2013, I joined EC Harris (Arcadis), London as a Project Manager delivering various services to a range of Residential Social Landlords (RSLs) across South East England. In 2014, I relocated with EC Harris (Arcadis) in Dubai, UAE to deliver a range of commercial projects for several big urban clients. In 2016, I joined Faithful+Gould (Atkins a SNC Lavalin Company) to deliver a portfolio of projects for Kings College London as well as grow their capability within the commercial fit out sector. During this time, I achieved membership to RICS, CIOB, and APM. I was also fortunate to be nominated for various industry awards. In 2018, I relocated to Saudi Arabia as a Senior Design Manager to help deliver the Kingdoms 2030 vision. An aspiration to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify the economy, and develop public service sectors such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and tourism.

Could you briefly explain your role as a senior design manager?

My role is to ensure individual projects and programmes which sit within a portfolio are delivered successfully. My ultimate role is to manage, coordinate and lead the design process for several packages and to report to various stakeholders within the organisation. My role is also to help facilitate various procurement packages during and through the design process. I have a vested interest in the lifecycle of the project, from inception to final delivery across all hospitality programmes.

What does your typical day at work look like?

No two days are the same. Often the first half-hour of the day is prioritising activities to meet upcoming deadlines, followed by a team meeting with the Head of Architecture. Setting the objectives for the day is very important, as it can be easy to meander and end up achieving very little. The day is a mixture of meetings and writing progress, issues and risk reports. Of recent, I have been working on building various processes for the design stage. This means chairing workshops with various internal stakeholder to get these processes right!

What are some of the pros and cons of your job role?

I work on one of the largest, ambitious and sustainable projects in the world. Having an opportunity to work on a project of this scale as a twenty-something-year-old is just amazing. Very few people in the world can say they have the same opportunity. I am also working with world-leading people building projects which will change the face of this earth.

Living in Saudi Arabia is tough, particularly due to the language barrier between English and Arabic. This means day-day activities like ordering food or directing taxis can be difficult. However, being in the region for some 6 years… I think it’s about time I take classes!

What attracted you to move to the gulf and continue your career?

There’s a big and better world out there. The opportunity came to my doorstep, and I opened the door. The rest is history. If it wasn’t the gulf it would have been somewhere else in the world!

What advice would you have for anyone looking to move abroad to progress their career?

Moving abroad is great, and it can definitely pay dividends. With technology and improved global mobility, the world has become a “smaller” place. For me, experiencing another city, growing my network and travelling has made me into the person and professional I am today. My advice is as follows; don’t dwell, make an informed decision and persevere through the challenges to meet your goals. Life’s tough. But with the right attitude and work ethic, you will be able to realise your potential. Whether you want to move to Dubai or anywhere else do your research, grow your network and be passionate. The rest will follow. Don’t chase high salaries because you won’t find happiness in money.

How do you think the industry has changed since you started your career?

Back in 2011, my careers advisor didn’t even know what surveying was! So the industry has leaped forward in helping to promote the profession. Organisations like RICS Matrics and CIOB Novus have really help to bridge the knowledge gap between young people and the world of work. I am the end product of the value they’ve created over the past half-decade. Social media and technology as a whole has facilitated and acted as a catalyst to help promote collaboration. This, in turn, has helped break down socio-economic barriers. Compared to other industries, the built environment has been slow to adopt. However, as we (the likes of me and you) come into the industry, we will bring positive change and shall leave a longstanding legacy created by the forefathers of the profession.

What was the best career/industry advice you’ve ever received?

There is no such thing as best careers advice. Follow your gut, it is usually right. Failure is as important as success. Get knocked down five times, get up six. If you can look up you can get up. 9/10 people will say you can’t do something, that other 1/10 is you. Go follow your dreams. Passion and fulfilment go hand in hand. The only person you can rely on is you. If you go chase the highest salary you will always be unhappy. Money is the facilitator in your life, make sure that it doesn’t become the forefront of your ambitions. Try new things, meet new people and remember to have fun. We work in a people business, smile, help our peers and take up new opportunities.

Lastly, do you have anything to plug?

For many years, I have helped thousands of students realise their potential within their life and career. I have developed a new intuitive, intelligent and innovative platform that will help students find exciting global opportunities across the built environment industry. Our aspiration is to ensure students have a seamless experience finding their feet during and after school/university in the hope of creating a reputable, long-standing and successful future for the profession. You can find out more here, Graduate Surveyors (Watch now: