‘Don’t limit your challenges, but challenge your limits’

Nurhidayah binti Mohd Suhaimi represents the younger generation of women today – strong willed, tech savvy, and not afraid of the unfamiliar. A new face in the construction industry, she may very well be the only female drone surveyor in Malaysia at the moment.

“Most companies seem to prefer hiring men over women for this role, given the nature of the job which is physically demanding,” Nurhidayah explains.

“When it comes to surveying, our site surveys can be located in extreme environments such as thick forest, swamp area and even at sea. Because of this, there are certain conditions that could pose more risk for women to be in the field - for example, during pregnancy. But these are only temporary limitations, and should never prevent women from pursuing a career in surveying.”

Now working at Malaysian construction company MMC Gamuda in Kuala Lumpur, Nurhidayah carries out drone surveying for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) 2 project, one of the largest megaprojects in Malaysia and the first MRT system in the country.

“The new MRT system is envisaged to radically improve and transform Kuala Lumpur’s poor and sorely inadequate public transportation coverage, and to propel the Greater Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area to be on par with that of a developed city.”

As for her responsibility as a drone surveyor on the project, Nurhidayah shares, “I will fly the drone all over the construction site and capture hundreds (sometimes thousands) of images from different angles. These raw images will be processed with the aid of computer software, to create accurate 3D representations of the respective site. This data will then be used by other departments in the company as an essential source and tool for getting up-to-date visuals of site progress.”

Through her profession, Nurhidayah is determined to increase the awareness of a surveyor’s role in the construction industry. “As a graduate in Geomatics Science, I am well aware that good surveying is vital to construction projects. Yet, not many people know the role that surveyors play in making those projects successful.”

With that in mind, and equipped with her skills, Nurhidayah aims to take the surveying field to a higher level, one that is increasingly recognised and respected in the industry.

Breaking new ground with drones

Being a tech-savvy young professional, Nurhidayah embraces digitalisation with open arms. “The best part of my role is that I am working with technology,” she says, revealing her excitement  “The use of drones has broken new ground in the field of surveying, bringing with it many improvements – especially when conducting fieldwork.

“This technology provides us with accurate data which can be presented in different formats such as ortomosaic, point cloud, DTM, DSM, contour line, etc. Furthermore, the drone can fly almost anywhere, including normally inaccessible areas and dangerous steep slopes – so it helps surveyors to obtain data without risking their lives. Other than reducing field time, this technology minimises survey cost.”

Passionate about her job, Nurhidayah also takes great pleasure in working outdoors. “I love what I do and the variety that it brings. There is also a sense of freedom that comes from working outdoors. I enjoy meeting new people and constantly working in new places while using state-of-the-art technology and equipment.”

‘The expert was once a beginner too’

Despite being the only female surveyor in her team, Nurhidayah feels comfortable and has received much support from her colleagues. “They have taught me a lot, help me with difficult tasks and never look down on my capabilities. It is refreshing to work within a team where everyone is on the same page and in pursuit of the same goal.”

With the advancement of technology in construction, Nurhidayah encourages young women to seize this opportunity. “When you are competent with technology, you have an edge in the industry,” she says.

Nurhidayah also notes that there is a shortage of female leaders in construction, and believes women should join the industry as it could offer increased potential for them to climb through the ranks. As she puts it, “Don’t limit your challenges, but challenge your limits.

“As a newcomer in the construction industry, you have no choice but to run. In order to survive, you will have to communicate a lot with the experts around you. Don’t hesitate to ask and learn something new, because no one starts at the top. Remember, the expert was once a beginner too!”

Photos courtesy of Nurhidayah binti Mohd Suhaimi and MMC Gamuda