When Rossukhon Sapphakitkamjohn joined an engineering consultancy after her studies over 18 years ago, she was the first female engineer in the office. “Back then, older drafting colleagues were not as receptive when I assigned them tasks. But after collaborating on several projects together, we learned to trust in one another’s technical capabilities.”
This experience did not discourage Rossukhon from continuing her career. “I’ve always believed engineering is a meaningful profession where passion and ideas come to life,” she says. “I enjoy making sense of things and I’m always seeking opportunities to learn new things and mastering my craft. So, when I graduated from my postgraduate studies, it only seemed natural to join an engineering consulting firm.”
Rossukhon is now working for Aurecon as a ground & underground engineering and civil practice leader based in Bangkok, Thailand. She has been involved in a wide range of projects, including civil and geotechnical design of major civil infrastructure works (ports and airports), major underground civil works (railways and basement of high-rise buildings), subdivision roads (pavement design), and stormwater drainage design for industrial, commercial, resort and residential developments in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
“I feel a sense of fulfilment when I work on large-scale infrastructure projects, knowing that they will benefit the community. I see each project as an opportunity for my team and I to master our craft, be a part of a rewarding experience, learn from subject experts and grow as engineers.”
Overcoming challenges as a team
Rossukhon says she faces complex challenges with every project she undertakes. “Each project is unique and working with various contractors from across the region can be challenging at times due to difference in cultures and approaches towards work. For example, in a past project in Singapore, we worked with a contractor from Korea to put together a tender proposal. Due to the difference in language and culture, we initially struggled but overcame this as both parties learned to understand and leverage on one another’s strengths.
“This is similar to some of our high-speed rail projects in Thailand where complex baseline works are required. My team and I partner with well-known consultant companies who have extensive experience in similar projects so we can achieve optimal results by leveraging on one another’s expertise. When either party encounters roadblocks, we work closely as a team to identify issues, mitigate risks and put forward the best solution to the client.”
She highlights that “every project poses new challenges, but the toughest challenge is managing a team. I always reference the saying, ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’ and advocate the importance of building resilience to strengthen one’s character.”
As someone who enjoys making sense of things, Rossukhon takes great pleasure in helping clients bring their ideas to life and to make the complex simple. “3D modelling, BIM management and construction sequencing have changed the way we manage projects and work with clients,” she explains. “We work closely with digital experts across the Aurecon network to ensure we deliver eminent industry-standard designs across all projects.
“Digital tools help to create a centralised dashboard to track the progress of projects, enable rectifications at the design stage and achieve clearer coordination with stakeholders. 3D modelling and digital twins can also be used to help clients realise the potential of their asset.”
She adds that with the rise in demand from clients for digital engineering, “I foresee the use of digital tools becoming the new norm with an increased application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).”
‘Trust in yourself and pursue your passions’
As part of her role, Rossukhon takes on multiple responsibilities including pitching for new projects and meeting with clients. “The majority of the clients I meet are male and there have been instances when they seem hesitant about my capabilities as a female engineer,” she says, when asked about her experience working in a male-dominated industry.
“To overcome this, I provide value to the projects I work on by openly sharing my technical knowledge and propose beneficial solutions to build confidence and trust. In my experience, when a client is confident in your expertise, doors to new opportunities will open.”
She further stresses the importance of having women in the engineering and construction industry. “As we live in a diverse society, it is important to embrace different perspectives to encourage the creation of innovative designs and to propel the industry forward.”
Her advice to women looking to join the industry? “Trust in yourself and pursue your passions. Being an engineer allows you to be creative daily, make sense of the world around you, bring ideas to life, and make a difference in the communities we live in.”
Photos courtesy of Rossukhon Sapphakitkamjohn and Aurecon