Amal Khawaja, MSc Construction Management
Amal Khawaja had been working as a Civil Planning Engineer for three years, when she decided it was time to take her career to the next level. Studying a master's in Construction Management at the University of Reading will enable her to achieve that.
"I had been working as an engineer in Lebanon, but I wasn't entirely happy – I felt something was missing. I was really interested in the management aspect of projects and I wanted to understand the whole strategy, to get the bigger picture. But I'd need about 15 years of experience to move up the ladder – I decided to speed up the process by studying a master's at Reading instead.
This master's will open up better and more niche options for my career – options I just wouldn't have at my age without this postgraduate qualification."
Amal says her master's has made her feel she can achieve anything:
"This degree has empowered me to feel I can do whatever I want. It's a really varied degree and I've seen people working in many different roles, opening my eyes to more possibilities.
I'm really passionate about the organisation of a project – this was a driving factor in my decision to study this master's. I love things relating to planning and scheduling – but in construction things are always going wrong. There's never a plan which tallies with what's happening on a project. So I'm really interested to learn the theory behind this, to tap into it and understand what's going wrong, so I can try and make a positive change to industry.
In my previous job we constantly faced communication problems between the site and the office. This course has taught me how to become more integrated and introduced me to software that enables easier communication. I am excited to feed my learning back into industry."
Learn through industry examples
Amal wanted to develop her skills, knowledge and network further, something which Reading's strong focus on practice and guest speakers enabled her to do:
"We're given a lot of real cases to look at – some of them are not real projects, but they are case studies that could happen in the real world. For example we went to Oxford to visit the Ashmolean museum, to consider how we might carry out an expansion in a critical location. The Ashmolean is a listed building and we considered the difficulties of putting in the materials, the doors and the exits etc. I can now use this knowledge and theory to apply the concepts to my projects.
We also have a lot of guest lecturers on our modules, who discuss real cases they have worked on. We learn all about the new technologies and methodologies they are using, and how they are applying integrated methods. You hear the challenges behind certain projects and how they were overcome; it really helps to learn and understand what current companies are doing in our fluctuating industry."
Amal is positive that when she graduates she will be able to move her career in the right direction:
"Reading students are very employable – employers love us because they know what we are being exposed to in our studies and because our professors have such a great reputation in industry. There's definitely a positive vibe from employers about Reading.
Our professors are very well connected, which provides lots of networking opportunities. This is particularly important to me as a postgraduate.
Coming to Reading was the best decision of my life – I know that when I graduate I will be heading back into industry feeling more confident, equipped to do more and able to progress my career as I'd hoped."