Firas Shawash embraced the opportunity to achieve Chartered status as early in his career as possible.
He had been working as an engineer for just four years when he achieved Chartered status. Gaining the professional accreditation was important to him, Shawash told create.
“I think it’s important for an engineer to have it at early stage of their career, not to leave it to the mid or the late stage of their career,” he explained.
“As a Chartered engineer, I have to maintain 150 hours [of continuing professional development] every three years.”
Shawash’s expertise is in fire engineering, which attracted his interest when he first arrived in Australia from his home country of Jordan in 2006.
“I felt it’s a new field of engineering that required more contributions, and has more opportunity, which was important for me,” he said.
“My duty is to provide performance solution designs under the Building Code of Australia for buildings that have a wide range of fire safety issues. Through these, I can help my clients maintain the heritage aspects or the security of the building without compromising the fire safety requirements.”
This requires carefully balancing regulatory requirements with the needs of other engineers involved in a project.
“Each building is different,” Shawash said.
Sometimes, for instance, he will need to find a solution that fits the safety requirements without compromising the intentions of a structural engineer.
In other cases, previously common building materials might be revealed to have problems preventing their use.
“Some of the products are now banned, so we have to be aware of them, especially in new buildings.”
Shawash said he needs to consider a building’s fire safety systems as well as its occupant characteristics.
“Some of these products pass the critical vertical fire-spread requirements but fail to achieve the falling debris criteria,” he said.
Shawash has been recognised by Standards Australia’s NEXTgen 2019-2020 program; he was the only participant from the fire industry.
“When I became involved in the standards process, I became aware of the changes before they occur,” he said. “You have to be involved at the beginning.”
He believes his Chartered status has helped him achieve recognition.
“It was a key factor in winning some industry awards,” he said.
Firas Shawash’s top tips for success
- Seek to achieve Chartered status at an early stage of your career. Even if your direct supervisors don’t have the accreditation, this should not prevent you.
- At the beginning of your career, aim to work for big, multidisciplinary companies where you will have plenty of colleagues to learn from.
- Focus on your project management skills. Often they are more valuable than your technical skills.