Interview 1: Ahmad Khattab

Ahmad Khattab (BEng, University College London, MSc, Imperial College London, PMP, CEng, MICE) Imperial College Business School2020 Scholarship Winners

Ahmad worked as a Principal Engineer in the Transportation & Infrastructure sector prior to commencing his MBA at Imperial.  He managed multi-disciplinary projects including the Ardleigh Green Bridge Replacement and Crossrail’s Farringdon Station.  He also led WSP’s framework with the £6.2bn M25 Motorway DBFO, delivering renewal and improvement packages for Europe’s busiest motorway.  Additionally, Ahmad undertook integrated assurance reviews and advised Transport for London’s board on high risk £100m+ infrastructure projects including Rotherhithe Tunnel & Hammersmith Bridge. He previously served as Director & Trustee for Global Brigades, an international development charity, where he established strategic relationships and supported expansion efforts within Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua.

Why did you decide to do an MBA?
My primary objective was to complement my technical expertise with a business skillset. An MBA will drive my transition from a focused and specialised position into broader and more impactful leadership roles. I will gain a holistic understanding of how global organisations operate, and what it takes for them to succeed in low-margin, high competition environments. The MBA will also expose me to unique viewpoints and perspectives of high-calibre experienced individuals from different sectors across the globe.

What stage in your career were you at when you decided to do the MBA?
I made the conscious decision to pursue an MBA as a Principal Engineer with six years of post-graduate experience. I had developed my management skills and consolidated my technical expertise having been chartered for three years at that point. My experience included a variety of technical and commercial positions working with clients, consultants and contractors across the Infrastructure & Transportation sector. I had also led major projects for Highways England, Network Rail, Transport for London and various local authorities. MBA study had been on my mind for several years, and this was the right time to immerse myself in a full-time programme where I would be able to make the most of the opportunities it brings.

How will you use what you learned on your MBA to further your career?
Post-MBA, my goal is to support clients in implementing major construction programmes in complex and competitive business environments. I would like to enable better decision making within UK engineering & construction firms and embed the flexibility and agility needed for success in the current rapidly changing technological world.  I am particularly interested in driving operational efficiencies through the utilisation of digital technologies and automation. Longer-term, I will look to utilise my breadth of skills and experience to fulfil executive leadership positions within the industry; influencing business strategy, operational direction and organisational leadership on a wider scale.

What are your expectations of being part of the SMF network after business school?
I look forward to building valuable relationships through the SMF network and collaborate with like-minded fellows to derive value for society from Capital Projects and Infrastructure in the UK.  I believe this to be vital as we navigate through unprecedented and uncertain times which will shape the industry’s future for years to come. The mentoring I will receive from industry leaders through the SMF programme will be invaluable and is the aspect I look forward to the most. I also hope that being part of the SMF would act as a catalyst for me to support broader activities and initiatives by the Royal Academy of Engineering going forward.

How do you hope to support SMF after you graduate from business school?
I thoroughly enjoy peer mentoring and supporting others around me grow professionally. I have myself been fortunate with a wealth of opportunities throughout my years in industry and incredible support from mentors.  I believe that with this privilege comes a responsibility.  Prior to commencing my MBA, I was a line manager and mentor for ten highly motivated junior colleagues.  I also delivered annual training in ‘Management and Leadership’ to graduate members of the Institute of Civil Engineers.  I am committed to continue on this path and hope to mentor future Sainsbury Management Fellows.  Longer term, if the opportunity arises, I want to support the Engineers in Business Fellowship as a committee member.

How did you find out about the SMF scholarship?
One of my mentees, a RAEng Advanced Leadership Award recipient from Bristol University, spoke very highly of the SMF and recommended that I apply for it when I decide to pursue an MBA.  He met a number of fellows through his involvement with the Royal Academy of Engineering and was inspired by their ambition and successes.   Fortunately, the Engineers in Business Fellowship added Imperial College Business School as an eligible school this year, making it possible for me to study at my business school of choice and join the fellowship.

How was your experience of applying for the scholarship? Anything that you found especially challenging or surprising?
Applying amid the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the SMF presentation and interview was held remotely. I usually prefer in person presentations as I could better connect with the judging panel but I actually found that this unfamiliar format worked really well.  It also meant that one of the SMF Trustees, Imoni Akpofure, was able to interview me all the way from Lagos!  I am grateful for the opportunity to present my views and share my vision with the SMF panel as part of my application and thoroughly enjoyed the subsequent discussions we had.

What difference has the scholarship made to you?
The scholarship has given me the freedom to pursue new exciting opportunities and extra-curricular activities in support of my long-term goals during my MBA year without the burden of debt.  Most importantly, I have gained a life-long association with the broadest UK network of business leaders with a technical grounding, all of whom have gone through a similar path as me.

Find out how to apply for a scholarship.

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