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Architecture is Ssanyu ‘s specialty

By Shamilla Kara Source:  www.newvision.co.ug

BERNADETTE Ssanyu insists she is a builder and all the other titles are fancy.Her work affords her this chance, says Ssanyu of her job as an architect team leader and project manager in the United Arab Emirates.

Ssanyu says she is just a builder

Ssanyu says she is just a builder

“On average, I meet a new person everyday; subcontractors, suppliers, client’s representatives from all over the world. The UAE is a meeting point of races and cultures, never mind that these cultures hardly ever mix,” says Sanyu.

Ssanyu has spent more than three years working on the Al Raha Beach Development project in Abu Dhabi, in different capacities.

“My roles on the project have evolved over the years, from design management, planning, scheduling, resource management, monitoring, evaluating and controlling design to construction management,” says the project manager who made up her mind to become an architect by the age of 12.

“When I was 12, the idea of becoming an architect had fully formed,” says Ssanyu whose A level combination of Physics, Economics, Maths and Art, her strategy to go to architecture school, raised some eyebrows.

“My father and the deputy head of the school tried to talk me into taking Physics, Chemistry and Biology and go to medical school. ‘After all, doctors don’t float’, was their argument,” Ssanyu says, to which she responded with a “No.”

Ssanyu’s career
Ssanyu’s career started in 1999 she did, “a little casual work” with Intex Limited during the construction of Naalya housing estate.

She then worked as an apprentice while studying architecture at Makerere University, first with Design Group and Associates and later with Norplan Uganda, now called Newplan Uganda, for five years. By graduation, she was head of department at Norplan.

In August 2006, Ssanyu took up a position at the Hilton Kampala project site which is under the Aya Construction Company, as a project coordinator and site administrator for a year.

From 2007 to date, she has been working with Waterman International Asia, based in Abu Dhabi as a project manager in charge of design on the Al Muneera precinct.

The precinct is part of Khor Al Raha, one of 11 precincts within the larger Al Raha Beach development, which is being constructed alongside 5.2 million square metres of beachfront.

The Al Muneera project that Ssanyu is part of, will offer 14-storey apartment blocks, townhouses and villas facing the canal and waterfront.

The development, built on reclaimed land along the Abu Dhabi to Dubai highway, will also have an office tower that will connect to the mainland site to the island site through a pedestrian retail bridge.

Educational background
Sanyu has a Bachelor of Architecture from Makerere University and is in her last semester of her MSc in Project Management with the George Washington University in Washington DC.

She is also a member of the Project Management Institute, a US based body that brings project managers together, and is a certified project management practitioner.

On working and living away from home
On her work

Ssanyu says with the size of the project she is working on,the challenges are numerous.

“Everyday you wake up to something new. On some days, I walk on to the site to find a newly completed timber floor, or painted wall and the reactions vary. Sometimes, it is ‘wow, we did a great job of that’ or ‘what were we thinking when we designed this?’ Either way, it is exciting as it keeps the adrenalin running,” she says.

On working abroad
“At a professional level, working in the UAE is exhilarating, I couldn’t have asked for more. The projects are huge, and the experience broad,” she says.

The glitch comes on a more personal plane: “It is difficult,” says Ssanyu of her decision to take up the three-year contract away from her two children and husband in Uganda.

As much as she and her family visit each other often, Ssanyu says it boils down to counting days before they meet again.

The kind of person she is in terms of work
“I try to be very organised and meticulous. Unfortunately, I tend to demand perfection from my team which in itself is a set-up for disappointments.”

To wear an Abaya or not?
Ssanyu quashes the rumours about what women working in the UAE have to experience, saying that she does not got to work in an Abaya, a robe-like dress worn by Emirati women.’

“You don’t need to be married to rent or own a property,” she discloses.

She adds: “Don’t believe everything you read or hear. The UAE is not as conservative as it is rumoured to be.”

She credits her work ethics to the industrious ways of her parents. “My parents have worked everyday of their lives for as long as I can remember, even during Christmas. And we were taught to work with them. I don’t know different.”

Something she worked towards?
“I wouldn’t say I worked towards being here. No, and neither is it where I always wanted to be,” says Ssanyu, disclosing that she was offered an opportunity and took it as a means to an end.

“Ultimately, home is where I want to be,” says this family woman.

Plans of bringing her expertise home?
“Absolutely, yes,” says Ssanyu, who adds that project management is still in its nascent stages in most parts of the world.

“As Uganda takes on bigger projects, there are many opportunities to practice and I’m all up for it,” adds Ssanyu.

skara@newvision.co.ug

www.representinguganda
abroad.webs.com

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