Doha Abul Shal shares insight into her life as a Graduate Urban Designer with AECOM in the United Arab Emirates


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Urban Designer Doha is always learning with AECOM in the UAE

Urban Designer Doha is always learning with AECOM in the UAE

 December 11, 2019

Doha Abu Shal is a Graduate Urban Designer in the Planning + Design team with AECOM in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is based at International Tower, Abu Dhabi.

Working in the UAE offers Doha exciting opportunities as AECOM’s presence in the region has mirrored the country’s growth, with the company playing a direct role in the development of iconic structures shaping the landscape and infrastructure.

In the first of a series of articles featuring AECOM’s women in the Middle East, Where Women Work speaks with Doha to learn about her exciting career journey so far and her important work.

Making the step to join AECOM

Doha is a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Architecture graduate and joined AECOM because she felt the company would suit her personality and skill-set as a creative thinker. She was also excited about the chance to work across multiple projects as she is always keen to learn.

“I joined AECOM in the Design, Planning + Economics (DP&E) team because I am given the opportunity to participate in an integrated multidisciplinary environment. I am constantly learning, engaging and building a wide perspective,” she comments. “As I find myself in a new place, I am very eager to gain exposure and to challenge myself to perform as a professional in the field. AECOM provides this platform for me as a graduate by allowing me to be part of the Professional Development Program and by means of being a full-time graduate urban designer on masterplanning projects.”

AECOM Middle East Doha graduate

Growing skills at an exponential rate

Doha’s role requires multiple skills. “For my current position technical input is always required as a basic ability, which includes theory application and software knowledge. However, we are always practising soft skills including communication, coordination, management and being a team player,” explains Doha.

Doha knows that, over time, her abilities have grown and she has developed greatly as a professional during her time with AECOM.

“I have grown at an exponential rate both in my technical knowledge and my soft skills. I have been involved with several fast-paced projects that required excellent time management skills, and the ability to work efficiently,” she says. “The greatest outcome in my opinion are the team debriefing sessions that we hold after every project. I find it extremely helpful to reflect on how work can be done better as individuals and as a team. Simultaneously, I have been able to build an amazing portfolio that captures my input on projects that I enjoyed being a part of. As a young graduate I feel full of energy and creativity.”

AECOM Middle East

Embracing new opportunities

So what does Doha enjoy most about her role with AECOM?

“We are social beings and this is an integral part of who we are as professionals. My role at AECOM is never limited to my position as urban designer; I am always trying to find opportunities where I can network and interact with people in different fields and disciplines.”

AECOM graduate designer Doha

Examples of how Doha immerses herself in further opportunities outside her job include previously acting as Communications Coordinator on the AECOM graduate committee and presenting to new graduates during the program induction. Doha has also prepared the graduate newsletter, which is issued to all the graduates in the Middle East five times a year. She is also a first aider on her office’s ninth floor, is part of the ‘AECOM Unity’ (this group focusses on bringing people together through Corporate Responsibility activities, and sporting and social events), and is a collaborative writer for the DP&E journal.

“I believe that maintaining my input for each of the extra-curricular activities that I am a part of is one of the challenging yet driving and motivating aspects of being part of the AECOM family,” Doha comments.

Life as a woman working in the UAE

When asked whether she would recommend further women join the AECOM workforce in the UAE, Doha explains she is originally from Saudi Arabia but was brought up all over the world so rarely spent time in her own country or the Middle East.

Despite having an interest in travel and exploring — having even hiked the Tuwaiq mountain in Riyadh — she admits that, after living in the USA for seven years, moving to the UAE was a big change.

“However, I found myself partaking in Saudi-based projects including Qiddiya, NEOM, and Riyadh Complete Communities, which is pretty awesome,” she adds. “I was given the opportunity to engage with our Saudi clients as a woman who represents and shares their background and culture. What is most exciting is that I found myself in a great position where I am able to influence views from my personal experience growing up abroad in order to deliver a project vision our clients seek.”

Having now settled into a new country and had new experiences, Doha encourages further women start careers with AECOM in the UAE: “I was somewhat reluctant to make the move to the UAE, but I truly believe that this experience is worth it and is rewarding. There is a great level of inclusion at AECOM. The work environment is extremely diverse and creativity thrives; the amalgamation of cultures from all around the world brings a fresh perspective to the design and project delivery approach.”

AECOM Doha Middle East designer

Doha concluded with a comment that should inspire any young woman professional: “As a 25-year-old I could not be happier during this time of my career.”


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