Carnegie Mellon University

Ahmad Khanzada in Doha at the construction site

September 29, 2016

Engineering Abroad: Building a ‘Mega Construction Project’ in Qatar

With a residential development, hotel, shopping mall, and amusement park, senior Ahmad Khanzada (CEE ’17) spent a very busy summer working with AECOM on a development project in Doha, Qatar.

Thanks to help he got from members of the CMU community and classroom experience, Khanzada was able to make his dream of working in the Middle East a reality.

CEE: Tell us about the work you did this summer.

I was in Doha, Qatar, working with AECOM, which served as engineering consultants and inspectors on a development project called the Doha Oasis.

I would call it a mega construction project: It had an elliptical-shaped residential development, a 30-floor hotel, a shopping mall, a bridge connecting the hotel and the mall, and an amusement park covered by a steel dome. It was 72,000 square meters of a lot happening, and as a young engineer I think it was a good experience because the scale of the project meant that I could learn a lot and get a lot out of it.

CEE: How did you find out about this internship?

I first had the opportunity to visit Qatar through a CMU program called IMPAQT during spring break last year, thanks to the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Renee Camerlengo. While I was there I got really inspired by the massive infrastructure development happening, and I decided I wanted to get involved in a developing country that’s building infrastructure from the ground up.

I sent out a lot of applications to American companies that work in the Middle East and I got a lot of rejections at first, but I didn’t quit because I was still very passionate about it.

I spoke to CEE’s Director of Undergraduate Programs Andrea Francioni Rooney and she was very encouraging and she took me to talk to the College of Engineering Dean Jim Garrett.

He helped me get in touch with various CMU alumni including Dr. Lori Gross, who works in the U.S. office of AECOM. She put me in contact with AECOM’s Middle East office and let them know I was very motivated, and luckily everything came together.

CEE: Did working and living abroad present any particular challenges for you?

What I found really challenging was getting used to the culture of the place.

I was in the office with a lot of young engineers from all over the world, with different cultures and different mindsets. But I think it helped me become a leader who understands how to deal with people who have different backgrounds and bridge the gaps between them to bring everyone together.

Also, over there they run off British measurement units and British building standards. Professor Jim Thompson’s Structural Design class had prepared me well for working in the real world, but we were taught on American standards. But I put some extra effort into learning the different standards and internalizing them, and about after two weeks I was able to adjust.

CEE: Were there any other CEE classes that helped to prepare you for this internship?

I took a course called Project Management for Construction, taught by Burcu Akinci and Justin Yeoh, and their course taught us a lot about the construction agency and working with contractors.

My graduate-level class taught by Professor Pine Liu and Justin Yeoh called Building Information Modeling talked about different types of software and technology used to integrate many actors into the construction project. That really prepared me for what a construction site looks like now and what the construction world is using nowadays.

CEE: Did this internship influence your career goals?

I now know that upon graduation I want to work for a company that gives me the opportunity to travel and work on projects around the globe, which is something I never really considered until I traveled abroad.

As kids, everyone looks at the New York City skyline and wants to build a skyscraper, and now I still want to do that, but I don’t want to do it somewhere where there are already plenty of skyscrapers.

There are so many places in the world that still aren’t fully developed and I think it would be amazing to work on a project that would create a lot of jobs and help a country grow.