AECOM is an integrated infrastructure delivery company passionate about the development of Africa. AECOM seeks to align with initiatives that aim to bring this development to life. AECOM serves private and public clients, delivering thorough, excellent projects aimed at delivering necessary infrastructure and programs.
SAprofessionals.com spoke to Executive: Structures, Buildings and Places Kim Timm about her personal and professional journey thus far.
You have had several professional achievements please list them and indicate which one stands out for you and why?
I have been lucky enough to have had some wonderful opportunities in the 16 years I’ve been working. I recently attended an international conference in Nantes, France, where I co-authored two papers; I was nominated as Young Engineer of the Year at the CESA Awards in 2010; I’ve worked on several projects that have received awards and commendations. Above all, the highlight for me has to have been recently recognised as Mentor of the Year at the 2019 CESA Aon Engineering Excellence Awards. I love mentoring and inspiring the younger generation, and it is humbling to receive an award that honours that.
Have you had any particular challenges as a woman professional that you think differ from your male counterparts? How have you tackled them?
When I started work I was frequently the only woman engineer that the contractors had ever met. This situation caused several early misunderstandings. I found that, over time, as I became more experienced, and more women joined the profession, it has become easier. There is definitely still bias around gender in the industry, and this will take time to change.
I’ve always believed that the only way I will change the misconception that women don’t belong in engineering is to be the best engineer that I can possibly be. It makes it a lot harder for people to argue the point if you are living evidence they are incorrect.
What advice do you have for younger professionals who are looking forward to joining the profession?
Engineering is an incredibly rewarding profession. It allows you to combine science and theory into practical real-world applications that better the world around you. Matriculants are always told that you need an ability to do mathematics and science in order to be an engineer. While that is true, I’ve found that the key element of a good engineer is someone who can sit back, look at the overall picture, and solve problems.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I’ve worked on a wide range of fascinating projects, from nunneries and churches to conveyors and power stations. The diversity of these projects is one of the aspects that keep me inspired and loving my work. The highlight of these has to be one of my most recent projects, Growthpoint’s New Lakeside Offices in Centurion. This was one of the rare occasions where truly challenging ground conditions forced the entire project team to work together to develop solutions and make it a success. Not only was it technically fascinating, but you could see the commitment of the client, contractor and all the consultants by the fact that it was finished on time and under budget. It was recognised recently as the Winner of the above R250 million category in the 2019 CESA Aon Engineering Excellence Awards. ,
What principles and values do you think are important for any professional and why?
Engineering and most other professions require a firm commitment to professional ethics. You are privy, on many occasions, to sensitive information, and you need to handle it in an appropriate manner. Your client is also relying on you as a professional to do the work you have been appointed to do, and it is your obligation to perform that work to the best of your ability.
Explain what contribution you have made to your current company since joining it?
I joined AECOM as a bursary student 20 years ago when it was still one of the legacy companies, BKS. Since then I have worked in many of the different offices. I like to think this has given me an advantage in being able to see different approaches and ways of thinking.
My passion sits in the technical side of engineering. I enjoy managing projects and ensuring they run smoothly, but my favourite part of the work is solving problems. I feel that by mentoring the younger generation, it enables them to look at things in different ways, hopefully more holistically. They have to understand that technical solutions cannot be considered in isolation from practical considerations.
Who stands out for you as a role model and why?
I thought about a fair number of famous people, and even people within my company who stand out, but I’d have to say here that probably my greatest role model is my mom. She’s spent her entire life teaching, 28 years of it at a school for the physically handicapped. I have the greatest respect for her technical knowledge. What has always inspired me the most is her empathy and understanding of people, and her joy at seeing others succeed.
Where do you want your career to be in 10 years’ time?
I’ve spent 16 years as a practicing consulting engineer. I’m still learning every day in my work. I would like to continue within the industry for the next five years or so, and then look at studying for my doctorate, and potentially going into lecturing.
What is your management and leadership philosophy?
I like to lead a team where engagement and communication is encouraged. I don’t want someone to be afraid of making his or her opinion heard. I reward and promote innovative thinking, and like to think that I support the team when things do not go smoothly. I feel that individuals are best managed on an individual basis. What works for one person doesn’t work for the next, so I try to incorporate that diversity into my approach.
What are you passionate about/keeps you awake at night/makes you tick?
I’m passionate about many things. I feel strongly about the role of women in society, and how society as a whole is changing and adapting, which is both challenging and exciting. In addition, I feel the traditional way of separating out creatively-minded and scientifically-minded people is fundamentally flawed. You get some of your best innovations when using creative approaches in conjunction with scientific knowledge. I like to take part in creative activities like writing, drawing, and even amateur dramatics. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at them, but I feel I’m a more innovative engineer as a result of this diversity in interests.
Do you think your organisation is a great company to work for? If so please elaborate in detail what makes it different from others in its field?
Yes, definitely! AECOM is a very large international company. This gives us great exposure and opportunities to work on some of the largest and most complicated projects in the world. When you are looking for an expert in any field of engineering, you can draw from this enormous pool of people, and they are only an email or chat away.
How does your company contribute to its profession and to the community?
AECOM SA has a fairly extensive corporate social investment system, and there are always outreach projects and programmes running from all the offices. In addition, we have global competitions whereby we suggest community projects and, if these prove to be suitable, we can win company sponsorship to make them reality.
What accolades has your company won recently that are worth mentioning?
Ranked #1 in Transportation and General Building in Engineering News-Record’s 2019 ‘Top 500 Design Firms’