Career Fridays, Career Paths, Civil Infrastructure, Middle East and Africa

At AECOM, employees are encouraged and supported to pursue career paths that best fit their unique capabilities, interests, and aspirations. Our Career Path Spotlight series takes you through the rewarding career journeys of our employees who have stepped out of their comfort zone and taken on new challenges to chart their own successful careers and growth. 

This time, we caught up with Asif Shafi, managing director for civil infrastructure in the Middle East and Africa, to discover how he chose the path he’s on today.   

Hi Asif. What do you do for AECOM? 

I am currently managing our civil infrastructure business (transportation, water and environment) in the Middle East and Africa region. I am part of a team of very talented people who come up with clever ideas to build roads, railways, homes and airports.  

Tell us about your journey and how you got here. 

I began my career as a structural engineer designing towers, hotels, offices and shopping malls. I made a transition to the infrastructure industry when I joined Parsons and worked on the design of highway and railway bridges and tunnels.  

After a few years, I enrolled in an executive MBA program that introduced me to a completely new world of strategy, finance, marketing and general management. This was a pivotal moment in my career as I began to take on roles in project management, cost controls and proposal management. It eventually led me to a role in business development and strategy, which was a major leap for me because it meant I was stepping away from a technical and project management career path. I began to get involved with major pursuits and became responsible for driving the pricing strategy.  

I enjoyed collaborating with people from different geographies, business lines and even other companies for joint pursuits and relished the opportunity to interact with senior management and lead discussions on risk management. I was fortunate to be part of a winning team and enjoyed contributing to the rapid growth of the organization. We won several mega projects in the region and I was promoted to be the lead for business development. 

I had been with Parsons for 14 years when I got the opportunity to join AECOM in a similar role in 2014. AECOM had just completed its acquisition of URS and I was attracted by the scale of its ambition to lead the industry. At AECOM, I was blown away by the sheer breadth of talent and expertise and the global footprint. I was now working with colleagues from Europe, Africa, Asia and North America in addition to the Middle East.  

The opportunity of a lifetime presented itself with the proposed transformation of Saudi Arabia. I was fortunate to work closely with our senior executives in crafting a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Vision 2030. We quickly became the market leader in program management in Saudi Arabia. 

I was then chosen as the lead for the civil infrastructure business in the region with full responsibility for profit and loss. I have been humbled by the opportunity to lead a team of about 1,000 colleagues in the region. We have a great team and are working on some truly remarkable infrastructure programs. I am excited for what the future holds! 

What an incredible journey. What would you say is the best part of your job? 

I really enjoy coming to work because of the wonderful people I am surrounded by. The early morning banter about soccer results, the laughs we share and the concern we have for each other’s well-being make it all worthwhile. I love talking to people across our organization, particularly some of our younger employees who have so much energy and come up with new ideas. 

What advice do you have about people in AECOM who want to chart their career path within the organization?   

The sky is the limit at AECOM. You should have the ambition to rise to the top of the organization. You should be open to opportunities to move to different roles in the organization – to a new location, a different business line, a new type of service, a different career path. 

If not this path, what would have been your career plan B? 

I would have loved to be an actor. I am partially fulfilling this fantasy by creating videos using social media platforms!

Originally published Jan 27, 2023

Author: Asif Shafi