A Chat With PUJA's Veteran on What it Means to be a Professional
“Back in my school days, when we were all trying to select a career, I was not well informed about any particular profession,” says Sr. Zulkipli Haji Abdul Hamid, “However, Quantity Surveying seemed to be a novelty as there were very few people who took up the course at the time.”
Sitting on the black, faux-leather sofa in his office, the Past President of PUJA recalls his early involvement in the construction industry. Little did he know that his decision — right then and there — would go on to shape his professional journey.
With over 30 years of experience, the co-founder and Managing Partner of HZ and Associates started out as a young intern at the Public Works Department before graduating with an Honours Degree in Quantity Surveying from Bristol Polytechnic in United Kingdom.
“I re-joined the Department after I graduated,” he continues, “Looking back, I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to be involved with many projects and tasks. I had colleagues who were always eager to deliver quality services, and with the leadership and support of the PWD management — I believe they prepared me for the future challenges I was going to face”.
In 1984, around the same time PUJA (Brunei’s Institution of Surveyors, Engineers and Architect) was formed, Sr. Zulkipli obtained a professional membership under the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (UK). With this certification and the early establishment of PUJA, the young industry veteran soon became heavily involved in various aspects of the national institution, and even had the opportunity to serve as its president for two terms running.
Throughout his leadership, the Ex-Assistant Director of the Public Works Department had always placed an importance on serving PUJA at its best. In addition to the quality technical talks and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses, as well as initiatives to engage the members with activities and dialogues; he was also focused on improving PUJA’s relationships with the government and other associations such as NGOs, regional and international institutions.
“For both my career and involvement with PUJA, one common driving force that I have always felt is the need for better professionalism”.
To be a professional, according to Sr. Zulkipli, is to be rewarded intellectually and in various other ways. Being a professional not only means having the right academic qualifications, but one also needs to prove that he possesses the core and selected knowledge, as well as the competencies of the respective profession.
“This calls for a structured and supervised training,” he elaborates, “which could go on for a certain number of years, during which the candidate is required to undertake job responsibilities — and this will help him learn and obtain the necessary core competencies, as well as other additional competencies that may also be required”.
Sr. Zulkipli further clarifies that throughout the training period, the candidate’s involvement may range from assuming assistant roles to actually executing the higher-end, professional tasks.
“An engineer, for instance, may be have to design a simple structure to start with. Quantity Surveyors, on the other hand, may have to deal with smaller buildings. However, it is quite unlikely for one to be asked to manage projects straight away”
“Sometimes the involvement may even be at an appreciative level. What I mean by this is that there are things or skills that our professional careers may not necessarily require us to practice for the time being. For example, in the case of Quantity Surveyors, there is the BIM (Building Information Modelling) software. One may not have the opportunity to actually use it here in Brunei, but sometimes in structured trainings, you might still need to know what it is. You might even be asked to describe what it is all about. So sometimes it’s still important for you to understand and appreciate certain concepts and how things work, even though you may not necessarily put it into practicality at the time”.
Being a professional, he highlights, also means knowing and upholding the ethical standards of the profession. It is of utmost importance for one to possess strong personal values and constantly make initiatives towards promoting the highest level of professional integrity and ethics.
Saying this as he reflects on his journey as a professional, the former member of the Legislative Council tells us, “in my many years of serving various capacities, in various organizations including PUJA, I realized that people are the greatest assets in building companies, communities, and more so, in building the country”.
Because of this, says Sr. Zulkipli, human resource development is a matter that should be taken seriously. Hence, companies, associations and institutions must take the challenge to become “people-developing organizations”.
“They play crucial parts in attracting and supporting talents, and helping them flourish in their respective specialties and endeavours”.
In this respect, as the dominant institution for the nation’s construction industry; PUJA, thus, serves a central role in attracting and fostering new talents in the surveying, engineering and architecture profession.
“These professions,” he claims, “are not only rewarding in themselves, but they are also essential in achieving Brunei’s national vision 2035”
With this, and especially with the technological advances, as well as complexities brought by globalization — it is without doubt that PUJA should, therefore, continue to foster the country’s surveyors, engineers and architects.
But the institution have surely gone a long way. Sitting with Sr. Zulkipli — the man who has been with PUJA since the very beginning, we look up to him with our utmost respect as he says to us, “I became a professional in the same year PUJA was established, and over the years, the journey has been challenging at times, but it has certainly been worthwhile.”