Bachelors of Civil Engineering; Master of Studies in Interdisciplinary Design
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
Safiyyah is a Technical Director and Civil Engineer at Aurecon. She has been working at Aurecon since October 2011. She completed her Bachelors of Civil Engineering from the University of Cape Town and then travelled to the United Kingdom every few months to complete her Master of Studies in Interdisciplinary Design at the University of Cambridge in England while she was working.
The reason why she pursued a qualification in civil engineering is because Safiyyah wanted to contribute to a field that would help her make a difference to the broader urban landscape.
“Civil engineering is one of the few disciplines that can make a significant impact on people’s lives. It encompasses everything from public transport and infrastructure to water provision, so it allowed me to get involved in projects that can improve the communities that we touch,” says Safiyyah.
Safiyyah spends most of her time working on the George Integrated Public Transport Network project, an unorthodox, first-of-its-kind initiative in South Africa that aims to transform the transport sector in the George Municipality. The sector transformation will shift the existing minibus taxi-dominated sector to a contracted bus service and everything from the business model, institutional model, operational and system design, infrastructure requirements, communications and marketing and financial requirements to a funding strategy to support the transformation had to be created from the ground up.
“Once complete, the George Integrated Public Transport Network will change the lives of so many people. We’re training and upskilling people as well as turning an informal sector into a formal environment that will make the transport sector in George more accessible, affordable and sustainable for as many people as possible,” says Safiyyah.
The project encompasses much more than engineering services. The Aurecon team is working with the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and the George Municipality to create the guidelines and standards for the transport network, which could potentially be used as a model for other transport networks in the future.
“It’s a groundbreaking project in many ways and we are really focusing on future-proofing the network for the end users. How the people will be able to get from point A to point B, how they are connected to the areas that they need to reach and how their transport impacts their disposable income,” says Safiyyah.
One of the biggest lessons that she has learned during her career is how to communicate with people.
“When I became an engineer, I wanted to find the problem and fix the problem, but I’ve come to realise that a lot of what we do relies on good communication skills. Being able to see beyond the challenges on a piece of paper, understanding what a client doesn’t yet understand and finding ways to collaborate so that everyone is on the same page is a useful skill for any engineer. What I would like to tell aspiring engineers is that executing a technical project well is important, but understanding people and focusing on solutions for real people will have a bigger impact in the long run,” concludes Safiyyah.