Creating a collaborative environment not only takes professional skills but personal clout as well. 15 years into his bridge engineer career at COWI, Assad Jamal is destined to connect people and make the most of it. Both when it comes to leading a team and building bridges.
It is believed that the Vikings saw the northern lights as a bridge between the Earth and the home of the Viking gods and named it ‘Bifrost’.
The myth adds an extra flavour to the adventure, Technical Chief Project Manager Assad Jamal and his team is at in Narvik in northern Norway. Here, they have designed and are involved in the construction of the second largest suspension bridge in Norway, the Hålogaland Bridge.
While managing the follow-up on the spectacular bridge construction, he has also enjoyed the region’s magical northern lights waving across the sky. Sometimes ice-blue, sometimes pink or fluorescent green.
To Jamal, bridges connect people in the real world.
“Not only in a very practical sense. They enable you to move mentally from one place to another. I think about that whenever I cross a bridge,” says Jamal.
Up until now, the impressive Hålgoland Bridge is the high point of Jamal’s bridge engineer career. Rising 179 metres above sea level with two elegant A-shaped towers, the bridge blends in well with the mountainous scenery.
Some local residents and engineering aficionados already call it “the most beautiful bridge in the world”.
“Everybody has a defining moment in their career, a project they are emotionally attached to. I have colleagues who can remember all the details about The Great Belt Bridge in Denmark. This is what this bridge is to me, it defines me and my career at COWI,” says Jamal.
Bridges connect people, not only in a very practical sense. They enable you to move mentally from one place to another.
After carrying out his graduation project at Cowi, Assad joined the company immediately after university. That’s 15 years ago now. Back then, he made the decision that he only wanted to stay in one job for 10 years, then he would move on in a different direction or to a new workplace. But he had a change of heart.
“I became so happy with my job here, that I couldn’t see myself working anywhere else,” he admits.
One of the reasons for staying on is how employees, even at a very young age, are given the opportunity of taking on big responsibilities. And although there is a hierarchy in the organisation, it’s not authoritarian, Jamal emphasizes. Equality is ever-present.
Jamal remembers a situation in his first week at the head office in Lyngby.
He was lining up at the coffee machine when a senior colleague appeared behind him.
Out of courtesy, he stepped aside to offer the senior person his place in the line. But the person declined by saying: “No, you go ahead, you were here first.”
Jamal smiles and explains that although the incident might also reflect his cultural background. He was born and raised in Denmark by Pakistani parents.
“My parents settled in Denmark to give me and my siblings the best possible opportunities in life. They told us that it was up to us to seize the opportunities and make a good living. So, this is what guides me in life and this is also what I try to pass on to others: You can show people the door, but they have to walk through it themselves.”
You can show people the door, but they have to walk through it themselves.