This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry. Click here for past discussions.
Samiha Shakil is known by her colleagues at Skanska USA Building as a champion for bringing new and innovative technologies such as robotics, 360-degree cameras and drones to the projects that she leads.
The senior VDC engineer has applied her expertise to notable projects, including BIM coordination at the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal B redevelopment and laser scanning on a large-scale hospital project.
Shakil also leveraged her experience in 3D printing and design to support first responders during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by printing and donating more than 500 face guards to hospitals across New York City.
She began her career in construction in 2016. Here, she talks with Construction Dive about her passion for the built environment and the opportunities that the industry offers.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What led you to choose construction for your career?
SAMIHA SHAKIL: I grew up in New York City surrounded by beautiful architecture and buildings, and I knew I wanted a career that exercised both my left and right brain, and contributed to the built environment.
Initially, I studied material science and had no intention of entering the construction industry. My plans were to enter the architecture or manufacturing fields, however early on in my career, I got an internship with a general contractor, and from there construction felt like a natural next step. Shortly after landing the internship, I was offered a full-time position with the company, and have been working in the construction sector ever since.
What are a few of the projects you’ve most enjoyed working on and why?
There are many projects that are near and dear to me. My first project was a residential high-rise in Long Island City, The Harrison. This was a special project for me because as my first introduction to the construction industry, I had the opportunity to change the skyline of the city in which I was raised. I would frequently drive by it on the highway knowing that millions of people would see the work that I’d accomplished.
My first project with Skanska involved work with the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal B redevelopment, an incredibly impressive undertaking with quite a grand scope. As my first experience with VDC, it was my introduction and crash course into the world of virtual design and construction. This being an ambitious undertaking, it instilled in me the confidence to tackle projects of all sizes.
As I entered my third project, a healthcare center, I was armed with the knowledge that I acquired over the years, allowing me to showcase these skills and put them into practice. I cherish the opportunity that I have been given to leave a lasting impression for generations to come, and to contribute to a healthier and happier community.
What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?
The construction industry is one that values creativity, strength and leadership, and I would encourage all individuals — specifically young women — to consider a career in construction. Construction has a wide variety of different career paths, including design, marketing and communications, finance and human resources.
I would also encourage young women who are considering a career in construction to connect with female leadership at firms that they may be interested in joining and to explore internship opportunities with these firms. My career path was forever changed by my first internship experience in construction.