At infrastructure consulting company AECOM, women’s achievements in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers are celebrated and actively encouraged across the company worldwide, while mentoring environments allow all people in similar situations to interact and obtain advice.
“It’s a very inclusive place to work,” comments Kim Timm (Pr Eng), Executive – Structures, Buildings and Places at AECOM. As South Africa pays tribute in August to the 20 000 women who bravely protested against pass laws in 1956, Kim reflects on the need for people to be free to choose to follow the careers that appeal to them without fear of bias or judgement from friends, families or colleagues.
“All people bring different assets and approaches to their work. Often when you consider something from only one perspective, the decisions you make are biased and one-sided, despite all efforts to the contrary. With contrasting viewpoints, you can ensure that the decisions you ultimately make are more comprehensive,” stresses Kim.
Kim oversees technical quality at the Structures Department in AECOM Centurion. A fair portion of her day is spent conducting design reviews and mentoring and guiding younger engineers. “Initially when I started working, there were very few women engineers,” she notes.
As such, contractors would seldom take her instructions seriously, and would typically repeat questions to the male engineers to confirm that her responses were indeed correct. While the industry in South Africa has evolved over the past 20 years, it can still be a challenge to be taken seriously as a woman in engineering.
Despite this, Kim highlights: “This is an amazing industry, with a lot to offer. It’s not the easiest industry for women to start out in, but once you are there, it is immensely rewarding and one where you can be part of the change you want to see.”
The South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA), sponsored by Sanlam and W. Consulting, awarded Kim the title of Woman Professional of the Year for 2019/2020. She has a BSc Eng (Civ) from the University of Cape Town and a MSc Eng (Civ) from the University of Stellenbosch. Describing herself as an all-rounder, she has worked on both heavy and light industrial, retail, commercial and residential projects.
Kim was a finalist for the Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) Young Engineer of the Year Award in 2010. In 2019, she was recognised by CESA as Mentor of the Year. She recently co-authored two papers at an international conference in Nantes, France.
“I love seeing the passion and enthusiasm the candidates bring to the industry. It is highly rewarding to have the opportunity to help shape their careers and futures. They challenge me to reassess my own views and opinions, and our relationship hence becomes a partnership that we all learn from. If we support and encourage each other we can change the world,” concludes Kim.