It started with a dream. A dream come true! My name is Zakiyah Qureshi, I live in Tower Hamlets and I am currently studying Project Management in Construction at University College London (UCL). My journey started at Langdon Park School when I wanted to become an architect and I got involved with the Building Schools for the Future project which aimed to improve school design. This was followed by two weeks of work experience in an architectural practice in year 10. I left Langdon Park in 2010 with 12 A-C grades at GCSE. I then went to a local college where I did my first year of A-level. However I didn’t get the grades needed to continue into the second year and I was devastated. I thought my dream of becoming an architect was over. I am truly blessed to have had support from my family and friends, who continue to encourage and inspire me. Failing taught me not to give up and that there’s always another way.
I then found the Construction and the Built Environment BTEC extended diploma course at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) which I enrolled on. I don’t regret doing a vocational course, in fact it was the best decision I made and it is what got me where I am today.
One of my greatest experiences whilst being at NewVIc was having the opportunity to work alongside Taylor Woodrow and Bam Nuttall design and production team at Tottenham Court Road station as part of the Crossrail project. I was able to look at their plans and to be on-site with the engineers and planners. Crossrail is a massive project with many challenges and risks and this placement gave me a fascinating insight in to how a large scale project is controlled and managed. Also during my time at NewVIc we went out on site and I used that to my advantage to keep in contact with professionals and build a network. I am constantly told how the construction industry needs more females and it’s true so I hope to start encouraging women especially from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities to get into construction.
Towards the end of the first year at NewVIc my career plan changed to Project Management and I thought that role would suit me best. I went on to apply for universities including UCL. I knew I had to write a good personal statement and I got help from my tutor and I know that having a wide range of experience made a big difference. For some time I wondered: “Should I really apply to UCL? What chance do I have against those who studied A-Levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB)” But I turned those negative thoughts around with self-belief. When I received the email confirming my place I was jumping with joy because after having attending summer workshops at UCL it was the only university I really wanted to go to. I secured my place by getting a triple starred Distinction which is the highest possible grade on an extended diploma and I was also awarded the NewVIc principal’s award by Eddie. I am very self motivated but it’s also good when people acknowledge my achievements.
Whilst studying at UCL I’ve had a lot of opportunities. I am now a director for the student construction society and I have also been on a one week programme with Mace, an international consultancy and construction company offering integrated services across different sectors. Being on the programme I have learnt about different disciplines and their role in the company followed by shadowing a member from the team. In addition we were made aware of how to apply and get on to the graduate scheme. We also went out on site visits that Mace is currently working on. Mace have worked on major projects such as the Shard and the Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Mace Macro, which is the facilities management team, has won the contract to run the entire project for the Emirates Airline Cable Car; this includes front of house service, maintenance, ticketing and security.
The exciting part was going to Barcelona for a week this was a project relating to one of our modules called Making Cities; a combined module with architecture and planning students. This was a team effort as we were assigned a specific area to work on and look at how the area has changed and developed over time. As well as identifying the contributions of architects, project managers and planners to the making of Barcelona.
However, studying doesn’t come cheap with travelling, food and course books needed for every subject. This is a challenge when you have a low household income. I receive a grant from the university and student finance help me manage financially.
The quotation I live by is: “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” My advice for other students is to stay positive, don’t be afraid to ask for help and grasp every opportunity with both hands because it can lead to a new chapter in your life.
Zakiyah Qureshi – NewVIc class of 2013