Having been in the industry for more than 30 years, Adil Putra Ahmad certainly knows a thing or two about engineering. Although he did not deliberately choose the career – he received a government scholarship to study civil engineering and accepted it – in hindsight, Adil finds a lot of satisfaction in his choice.
Having graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the United States, Adil returned to Malaysian shores in 1987, only to find the country in the grips of a recession. In 1989, he received an offer from Gamuda Berhad, and the rest as they say, is history.
One of his first and most memorable projects was in 1990, when Gamuda brought in a new technology known as Mediflex from France for road construction. Adil was given the opportunity to go to Paris and stay there for a month to learn the technical details of this technology – an amazing learning opportunity for a young graduate who was getting started in the field. The technology was used to build a road that connected a few small towns and villages in Perak.
“We used French technology to upgrade the old road. And I remember it well because this road lasted a very long time, twice as long as other roads of its kind,” he says.
Adil has a unique perspective and insight into the development of the country’s infrastructure and landscape over the decades due to his involvement in some landmark projects in the Kuala Lumpur-Klang Valley area, including the construction of KESAS Highway in 1995, LDP Highway in 1996, and the building of MRT Line 1 in 2011.
“When I was younger, the drive that kept me going was the challenges of the job and the desire to learn new things. As I have grown older and grown in the industry, I see engineering as a catalyst for the country. It shapes and drives the country towards further development,” he says.
He shares that the industry is changing and evolving, driven by digitalisation. “Traditionally, engineering would be confined to the processes and formulas you learn in the classroom. Today, they teach you to challenge the norm. One of the things that is propagated is the adoption of digitalisation, which is transforming the whole industry.”
In addition to having an eye for detail, the curiosity to learn and the interest in how things are made or done, which Adil regards as essential qualities for engineers. He says that a huge advantage for graduates is being digitally savvy and being able to adapt to change, be it changing technology or changing environments as both are part and parcel of an engineer’s career in the future.
It is important that graduates of tomorrow are aware of the latest engineering technologies and adept at using them on top of having basic technical skills and qualifications. Other attributes he looks for when hiring new talent is their ability to communicate well, to take on leadership roles, as well as not afraid to challenge norms.
“Engineering is not as fixed or limited in scope as many may think. You can start off in a niche area like civil engineering, and later on expand your scope beyond that. After you gain some experience, you can actually start implementing your own ideas and get involved in bigger roles,” he says.
Gamuda adopts a working environment and culture conducive for the younger workforce such as flexible work arrangements and benefit packages for employees and their families. Employees are also given exposure to technical, soft skills, and leadership development opportunities.
The company also invests in career development mapping for each employee who steps into its fold. This approach enables management to identify specific career paths and skill gaps for each employee, as well as determine the time frames within which they want to achieve their goals.
As a true-blue product of the company, Adil believes that a bright future awaits young talent who have the right attitude and aptitude for the industry.
“I believe in treating every day like a learning process. I always tell my young engineers: Never say you have learned enough; the day you say that, no one can teach you anything more.
“One must also be able to maintain focus and tenacity on what they are doing. Start by making it into everyday habits. Once habits are formed, they become convictions, and once you have conviction in something, you become well grounded,” says Adil.