People: in focus - Asif Mahmood, alumnus, on work as Land and Property Contracts Manager with HS2
6 October 2016
Asif Mahmood, alumnus of BSc Project Management for Construction, is currently consulting with HS2 as the Land and Property Contracts Manager. He spoke to C&PM about this work, his previous activities, and his advice to new students.
What attracted you to your current role?
I am from Cheshire, which is in the North of England, and I wanted to be involved in something that I believe will change the country and, especially, the North. Interestingly, this is my first job in England.
What kind of contracts are you overseeing?
I oversee contractual activities from and Land and Property aspects of the HS2 route. As I learnt at UCL during my PED project and the Contract Administration course by David Coles, to be successful in contracts is not just a case of being very organised or having the ability to be well able to correspondence in an eloquent fashion. It is an all-encompassing role that requires one to work with many stakeholders whilst also ensuring you are meticulous in your planning.
Where have you worked before?
After I graduated from UCL, I moved out to Qatar and I was working there for 5 years as part of my graduate programme. After that, I started doing my own thing: contracting. I was working on a few other small projects in Doha and then I moved to France and Niger to work for a subsidiary of the French government. The head office was in France and the site office was in Niger, in the Sahara Desert in a really remote place called Imourean. Afterwards, I moved from there to Saudi Arabia to work for a JV called SATORP (Saudi Aramco and Total), in the same capacity: contracts, and consultant managing. I started doing my Graduate Diploma in Law there and moved to Qatar again to work for a government museum body. I tend to work in quasi-government or government projects.
It sounds like you have been very busy. Has your undergraduate degree acted as a springboard for these occupations?
Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t have considered the construction industry in the first place. Even though I’ve not been specific within the engineering and construction industry, the degree has given me that background.
What have been some of the most challenging aspects of your career so far?
Assimilating myself into all these different countries and settling yourself in has been a challenge. As I said, I’m from a small town just south of Manchester, so even just moving to London for university was quite tough. However, I thought that, if I can do it in London - which is such a busy city - I can do the same in Doha, Jebel, Saudi, Muscat, or wherever. It gives you a good understanding of adaptability. Studying at UCL gives you common understanding with people from across the world. This commonality will hold you in good stead as the world becomes more globalised.
What inspired you to apply for BSc Project Management for Construction at C&PM?
I wasn’t very sure at school-leaving age what to do, but I knew I liked buildings and management. When I started at UCL, I was studying Information Management. It wasn’t sitting right with me and so I moved to C&PM. I would advise students who are 17 or 18 that, when you have to make a choice about university studies, it is very difficult to know what you want to do as a career. There is no shame in taking a step back and saying you made the wrong choice. You should think about what you like and look for a course that is suitable. For me, I looked at construction, looked at the modules, spoke to the course director and they were happy for me to transfer once I was already at UCL.
And you haven’t looked back since?
I definitely think I made the right decision. It’s something that I enjoy and it’s given me the flexibility to travel which I would not have been able to do in other careers.
What lies ahead for you?
My wife lives in Oman, so I’ll be going back there once my role here is finished. Then, I’m not too sure what I’ll do. That’s advantage and disadvantages of having your own consultancy business: you can work as much or as little as you want. One advantage for contracts management careers is that sometimes it’s best not to specialise in one specific area because, for example, I was heavily involved in oil and gas. Now that the oil price has gone down, I have been able to move to rail and infrastructure. If that industry suffers, then I can move to another sector. That’s one good thing about the course and the industry that you’re in: it’s very adaptable. Usually when one sector is doing badly, another sector is doing well.
What other activities are you involved in?
It’s always important to network. I’m still in contact with a lot of UCL people. I’m heavily involved with UCL in the Middle East as the UCL representative in Oman and Qatar. So, I meet with a lot of the UCL network, and attend and host events at the campus in Qatar too.
We look forward to staying in touch with Asif, and seeing where his career leads in the future.