【International Voices in NTUCE】(EP05) Journey of a Jordanian Structural Engineer: Navigating Taiwan, BIM Specialization, and Global Success

Interviewer: Tobias Gimenez.
Interviewee: Amin Alnouna.

Born in 1989 in Jordan, Amin Alnouna’s journey began when he decided to pursue his passion for civil engineering. Looking for opportunities around the world, he submitted applications to multiple universities. However, upon receiving admission to NTU, he could not contain his excitement. Delighted by the opportunity to join one of the world’s top-ranking universities, he enthusiastically shared the news with friends, taking pride in the prestigious acknowledgment of his academic journey. In 2009, he took a leap and chose National Taiwan University (NTU) for his undergraduate studies, attracted by its global reputation and high academic standards. This decision marked the beginning of an adventure that not only shaped his career but also exposed him to a new culture and language.

Cultural Experience in Taiwan

Arriving in Taiwan, Amin found himself in a vibrant and welcoming culture. He considers himself fortunate to have had the chance to experience Taiwan, describing it as a truly wonderful country. The lush greenery, abundant trees, and the overall environment left a lasting impression. Amin immersed himself in the beauty of Taiwan’s landscapes and embraced the local culture. Beyond the classroom, he discovered a world of warmth and openness, expanding his worldview and leaving an indelible mark on his personal growth. Amin appreciates the friendliness of the people, noting that even his classmates went above and beyond to assist him in various aspects of life, extending beyond academics to daily concerns like finding a house.

This collective support left a positive mark, painting Taiwan in his mind as an amazing country with kind-hearted people.

Challenges and Reflections

Amin openly shares the initial struggles of adapting to life in Taiwan. Navigating a new language and culture is not easy for any foreigner, and it was not different for Amin. He faced these challenges with resilience. Overcoming these obstacles not only improved his language skills but also instilled in him a sense of adaptability and perseverance that proved crucial in his future endeavors. Reflecting on this period, Amin acknowledges the impact it had on his personality and problem-solving abilities.

Academic Pursuits at NTU

Amin’s academic journey at NTU commenced in 2009 when he enrolled in the Civil Engineering undergraduate program. The rigorous curriculum, coupled with the language barrier, posed initial challenges. However, the supportive environment at NTU, characterized by a collective commitment to fostering academic growth and personal well-being, aided Amin to overcome the initial challenges posed by the rigorous curriculum and language barrier during his pursuit of the Civil Engineering undergraduate program, with most of his professors demonstrating an exceptional level of care that extended beyond their official responsibilities, taking the initiative to explain complex concepts in English or simpler Chinese during office visits, while the Teaching Assistants and his classmates further contributed to creating a supportive atmosphere that significantly facilitated his successful navigation through various academic endeavors.

His coursework covered a range of subjects, providing a solid foundation in civil engineering.The experience at NTU not only contributed to his technical skills but also enhanced his problem-solving, decision-making, and presentation abilities.

Discovery of BIM at NTU

The university’s forward-thinking curriculum included specialized courses in Building Information Modeling (BIM), offering Amin insights into this emerging technology. These courses provided in-depth training on BIM concepts, tools, and applications. The exposure to BIM not only enriched his academic experience but also laid the foundation for his future. A stroke of luck led Amin to discover this course through a classmate, and upon completion, he found it to be extremely beneficial. It opened his eyes to a new way of approaching construction and design projects. Returning to his home country, Amin realized the novelty of his expertise in BIM, positioning him as a pioneer in the field as his country was just beginning to familiarize itself with this technology. The field, still evolving, presented Amin with opportunities, making job hunting easier and garnering higher salary offers.

Amin appreciates NTU for its commitment to staying abreast of market trends and emerging technologies, a quality that has greatly contributed to his professional success

Professional Experience

After graduating from NTU in 2013, Amin entered the professional realm by working at a reputable engineering consulting company in Taiwan. He found himself presented with a significant opportunity when a company, engaged in a project in the Middle East with Kuwait, saw his skills. Their preference for an individual capable of performing Chinese-Arabic conversations, coupled with an engineering background, aligned perfectly with Amin’s profile.

The company envisioned Amin as a valuable asset for potential future collaborations with Arabic-speaking countries. An important factor in this opportunity was Amin’s involvement in the BIM course. Following a course’s conclusion, a workshop was organized, showcasing the students’ achievements. A connection facilitated by their teacher led to Amin interacting with CEOs and managers of prominent Taiwanese companies. Through these connections, he encountered a manager and CEO from the company he would later join. Expressing his interest in working in Taiwan, Amin received offers and decided to seize the opportunity. This experience proved invaluable as he learned extensively. Amin’s expertise in BIM set him apart in the industry, showcasing the practical relevance of the specialized courses he undertook during his undergraduate years

Amin is currently employed at an engineering company in Dubai, where he holds the position of the structure team lead. In the past, Amin also engaged in some structural design work. However, due to the increasing workload, the decision was made for him to shift his focus solely to the BIM aspect. Reflecting a broader industry trend, Amin highlights the prevalence of BIM technology across companies, contrasting its significance to the widespread use of AutoCAD in the past.

In tune with this industry shift, Amin’s workplace has embraced and integrated BIM workflow and technology into its operations.

Over the past decade, Amin has accumulated extensive experience, primarily working with BIM coordination and clash detection using Revit.

Alnouna perceives the integration of BIM as a transformative evolution within the civil engineering realm. He firmly believes that any civil engineer can benefit from having knowledge, or at least a familiarity, with the workflows and terminologies associated with BIM. Amin notes the significant impact of BIM on his professional experiences, recounting how colleagues from various companies were surprised by the transition from drawing 2D lines in AutoCAD to instantly creating a 3D view. He recalls the traditional method of manually drawing every line for building sections with the streamlined process in Revit, where a simple click in the section tool yields the desired view. This emphasizes the efficiency and paradigm shift brought about by BIM technology in the field.

Continued Learning and Global Perspective

Amin’s commitment to continuous learning became evident as he delved into self-teaching, collaborating with colleagues, and occasionally enrolling in online courses. He highlighted the diverse work environments in Taiwan and other countries, noting the depth of expertise in Taiwan and the broader knowledge base in other regions. In his observation, he points out the difference in focus between his home country and Taiwan. In his homeland, there’s a more market-oriented approach, where civil engineers may specialize in structural design for small buildings and utilize various software tools. Conversely, in Taiwan, the emphasis is not solely on market applications and software use; rather, there’s a keen interest in research, concepts, and the academic aspects of the field.

Advice to Prospective Students

Drawing from his personal journey, Amin encourages prospective students to make the most of their university experience. He emphasizes the importance of acquiring a broad spectrum of knowledge during the four-year academic journey. His belief has always been in being qualified rather than certified. The emphasis lies in the understanding that grades are not the sole measure of one’s capabilities. The knowledge acquired holds greater significance than the GPA, which tends to lose its relevance after a year or two. Amin asserts that people, as time progresses, focus more on current knowledge, certificates, courses, and practical experience gained from projects. While acknowledging the potential initial importance of GPA upon graduation, Amin emphasizes the continuous need for self-improvement and acquiring new skills. He views the university as a valuable platform for knowledge acquisition, regretting not maximizing the abundant resources, extensive libraries, and the expertise of top-ranking professors at NTU during his academic journey.

Amin Alnouna’s journey from Jordan to NTU, through Taiwan, and into the global realm of BIM showcases the transformative power of education and specialization. His story serves as an inspiration for aspiring engineers, emphasizing the importance of embracing emerging technologies and continuously improving both technical and interpersonal skills for a successful and fulfilling career in civil engineering. The linking of personal, academic, and professional elements in Amin’s narrative underscores the holistic nature of the educational journey and its profound impact on an individual’s life.