Interview with Snehali Batliwala, WSP Associate Director – Electrical

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Snehali Batliwala, Associate Director – Electrical at WSP. In this inspiring interview, Snehali offers a window into her incredible career journey, which began as a determined immigrant engineer in a new country. She also shares insights about her life beyond the workplace and imparts valuable advice for aspiring female engineers looking to thrive in a challenging yet rewarding career.

Hi Snehali, can you provide insights into your career journey and the pivotal experiences that have led you to your current role as Associate Director – Electrical at WSP?
It certainly feels like a long journey!! Similar to any career, continuous learning and being adaptable would be the key points. I started my career in 2006 as a newbie immigrant engineer in this country. Having a can-do attitude and desire to learn whatever comes my way has surely helped me to set my foot on the ground in this industry. An interesting fact is that I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering however, prior to moving to Australia, my first job was in the IT field! So when I started working in the building/construction industry in Australia, it was basically a starting from zero in a totally new environment. Initially, I even did part time study at RMIT to learn AutoCAD which was useful in the early phases of my career. However, I must say I was lucky enough to have some informal mentors/colleagues who helped me understand what to expect in this industry and guided me through some of the challenging situations.

It is fantastic to learn about how you have progressed in your career, now can you tell us a little about your life outside of work?
Outside of work, I spend most of my time with my family. After hours, I am a full time mother of two lovely kids!! You will find me either in the kitchen cooking or running around doing errands for the kids. Long walks and yoga is something I like to do when I get some spare time along with reading a good book. Hopefully, sometime in my life if I get a chance, I would like to travel and visit all the beautiful places in Italy and Greece!!!

You’ve worked with Buckford Illumination Group over a number of years, could you share an example of a project you’ve collaborated with us on and detail how our support contributed to the project’s success?
I have worked with Buckford Illumination Group for a number of years, so naturally we have collaborated on various projects. A particular project that comes to my mind is a prestigious Anglican Grammar School project which was completed last year. The project comprised a new 3 storey building with aquatic facilities, a gymnasium, indoor and terrace sports courts, an art gallery, a multi-purpose auditorium and more. A range of ERCO and WE-EF products were nominated for the various lighting. There were some challenges due to the complex ceiling arrangement and the space constraints. A representative from BIG helped with handling these constraints and they also visited the site to meet the contractor to help them better understand the design intent. It is this continued support from BIG after they supply the product that ensures the best final outcome.

What aspects of your work do you find most rewarding?
I will have to say I was fortunate enough to work on a variety of projects which have glued me to this industry. During all these years, I have worked on all sorts of projects ranging from pathway lighting, fascinating robotics laboratories, pharmaceutical compounding facilities, nursing homes, aquatic centres, aviation and many more. Understanding the needs of the different clients/stakeholders and then successfully delivering those projects is the most rewarding part of my career. I have also been involved in the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) mentoring programme for numerous years, which assists young female engineers in the construction industry. I have come full circle as I am now mentoring young engineers who were in a similar position to me when I began my career. Being actively involved in these volunteering and mentoring groups has provided me with a great sense of accomplishment.

On the flip side, what are some of the common challenges you’ve encountered in your career, and how have you overcome them?
I have to be honest here, the property and building industry is a male dominated industry so gender bias and stereotypes do exist! When I graduated, there were approximately 5% of female students in the engineering degree. It is slowly changing, currently, it is sitting around 15%. There has always been a scepticism and prejudice for female engineers and their suitability for certain roles. To overcome this, we are expected to work much harder to prove ourselves for career advancement and to receive recognition amongst our peers.

You mentioned that there are challenges as a woman in the electrical engineering industry, so what advice would you offer to young women aspiring to pursue a similar career path?
Like any other career, determination and hard work will enable one to thrive in the field. Look for the male or female mentors. They can offer guidance from their own experiences which would be invaluable!! Engineering can be a challenging career, therefore develop resilience and perseverance that can help to overcome setbacks. Last but not least, believe in yourself 😊