Leading Business Development in West China
Posting date:12/3/2020 11:44 AM
Based in Chengdu City, Sophie is Head of Business Development (BD) West China in Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group. Her role at the organization is to identify opportunities, promote Atkins' business, sell its services, and win work. Here's her story:
You've been at Atkins for nine years. How have you grown personally and professionally?
Looking back, I feel on-the-job learning has been the best way for me to acquire new knowledge. When I first started the job, I knew very little about the sector and Atkins business, which I found intimidating at first. But as a multi-disciplinary BD in Chengdu, I've had chances to work with different teams in different offices, which has diversified my work scope and knowledge. So, gradually I've become familiar with our business scope and work procedures. Although I have a lot of valuable experience, there's so much more I can learn. I'm pleased to be in this sector, which I find very rewarding.
What personal interests led you to your career in the industry?
When I was a student, science subjects were my favourite, and I excelled at them. I enjoyed logical calculation and deduction. I was interested in seeing or doing something practical. Although I didn't study engineering, finally, a career in the industry suited me. I love how Engineering makes things really happen. I enjoy it.
Tell us about your biggest career highlight at Atkins...
As a BD, winning and signing contracts is essential to my performance. In 2019 we were invited to enter a bid for a third or fourth-tier city in China. The team leader and I didn't expect to win because the downstream work's contract value was high. Usually, such contracts are awarded to local design institutes with Chinese qualification licenses. We just hoped we'd make second or third place and be paid a reasonable compensation fee. Over and above our expectations – we were awarded first place!
How did the experience challenge you?
The negotiation of the contract was a stringent process as we needed to control the risks carefully. To understand the client's perspective, we thoroughly listed our reasons, difficulties, and solutions from different angles during the negotiations.
I'm very grateful for my line manager and the in-house lawyer. They supported me in coming up with many creative ideas during the contract negotiation.
What did you learn?
I learned to never take anything for granted. And to always be fully prepared for both the best scenario and the worst scenario!
What advice can you give young women starting out in the industry?
This is a male-dominated field, and no one will give you extra care and make any compromise because you are female. But women can do as well as men do in engineering. Forget your gender when meeting clients.
In general, there's a common perception that our industry is a tough place for women. And women should avoid working in engineering and construction because it comes with lots of overtime work, travel and site visits away from home. However, the case is different at Atkins. Women and men are treated equally, and female employees are in the majority. It's a women-friendly company with a system and culture where staff enjoy flexible work hours.
"Men and women are equal. We shouldn't label what a man's career is and what a woman's career is. We should follow our hearts. As long as someone likes engineering, no matter their gender, he or she should be encouraged."
Why do you stay at Atkins? What do you love about it?
I'm the kind of person who loves a simple personal and work life. Compared with other companies, we enjoy excellent relationships and easy collaboration with colleagues all over the world. Atkins also has a perfect management system, which offers employees a healthy work/life balance.
It's an honour to work at a company that's so well-known throughout the world and introduce Atkins to potential clients who share Atkins visions, values and integrity.
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