Going the Extra Mile with Syeda Fakhar-Un-Nisa

“My time with Hill has been fantastic,” says Syeda Fakhar-Un-Nisa, Hill International’s new Country Manager for Pakistan. A 20-year architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry veteran with experience in procurement, contract administration, and claims, Syeda works out of Hill’s office in Islamabad and uses her vast local experience and AEC expertise to support Hill’s clients in the country.

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“I joined Hill in 2019 as a contract manager for Emaar Properties’ Crescent Bay Development Project, Hill’s first major project in Pakistan. Our team provided construction management services to help deliver five residential towers and infrastructure for this mixed-use development on reclaimed land. This work began my journey with Hill and learning in this fast-paced but supportive environment is what I have enjoyed the most.”

Diving Right Into the Deep End

Major challenges arose almost immediately after Syeda joined Hill with the onset of COVID-19. Despite the intense global uncertainty about the situation, Syeda stayed in Karachi and continued to support Emaar’s project. Other professionals on Hill’s team were unable to enter Pakistan due to travel restrictions. Syeda stepped into a leadership role, continuing to manage mobilization/demobilization and contract administration among other services during COVID-19.

Syeda’s heightened responsibility on Crescent Bay won her the trust of management and colleagues alike. It also gave Syeda a confidence boost. “Being a woman in construction in Pakistan can be challenging,” Syeda admits. “At certain points in my career, I have struggled against obstacles related to my gender. That can be demoralizing. So, to succeed and show my peers what I can do on such a high-profile project and a key project for Hill just making an entry into Pakistan’s construction industry—especially during the extremely challenging pandemic situation—was a great feeling.”

More Challenges

In January 2021, another challenge arose while Syeda was working on the Elite Reverie project, a multi-million-dollar mixed-use development in Islamabad. Again, COVID-19 was the catalyst. Another wave of travel restrictions prevented Hill Senior Vice President, Asia-Pacific and Technical Core Team leader Saïd Mneimné, the Reverie’s resident engineer, from traveling into the country.

“The project needed a full-time resident engineer from the Hill side,” explains Syeda. “Mr. Mneimné knew about my primary qualification as a civil engineer, and based on my performance to date, he entrusted me with the role of resident engineer on the Elite Reverie project.”

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At first, Syeda was nervous to step into the demanding new role while continuing to provide contract management services—there were up to nine contractors with separate contracts on the project at any given time. More, as one of the only Hill professionals available, Syeda also had to serve as Hill’s immediate point of contact with the client. However, after ten months of seeing Syeda’s expertise in action, it was apparent to Saïd, the client, and her team that she was the right person for the job.

“Syeda’s performance on the Elite Reverie project was exceptional,” adds Saïd. “Whether she was managing contracts, providing quality assurance/quality control, managing Hill’s business relationship with the client, serving as a leader on site, or going well beyond her job description, Syeda always went the extra mile for our company, the client, and their project. She is a conspicuous example of the type of quality professionals Hill International attracts.”

Leveraging Local Expertise

Partially because of her outstanding success in facing the obstacles she met at the outset of her time with Hill, Syeda was promoted to Country Manager for Pakistan in early 2023. However, according to Saïd, another asset that makes her perfect for the role is Syeda’s local expertise. “She is the face of the company in Pakistan, the natural leader for our Pakistani operations, and our prime point of connection with clients,” he says. “It made her the natural choice for Country Manager.”

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As a local from the Lahore area, Syeda leverages her familiarity with Pakistan’s professional organizations, business practices, and media outlets to support Hill’s recruiting, business development, and marketing throughout the country to aid in her work and benefit her projects. Much of Hill’s back-office infrastructure for the region is in Dubai, UAE. Syeda’s local presence helps recruiters, accountants, and business developers in Dubai better connect with Pakistanis. For example, to support recruiting, Syeda uses her familiarity to negotiate directly with job candidates. Syeda also uses her local expertise to identify the best opportunities to pursue, source partners for projects, and take advantage of public relations opportunities. In addition, Syeda regularly attends conventions and other events to increase Hill’s brand visibility in Pakistan.

Big Plans for Pakistan

“I’m always looking towards the future, and I have never hesitated to meet with subject matter experts and entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s AEC industry and at Hill to explore the possibilities of growth in the country,” says Syeda. “Recently, I initiated seminars, trainings, and joint discussions between Hill professionals and the Pakistan Engineering Council, a body that functions as a driving force for achieving rapid and sustainable growth in all national economic and social fields. I am happy to report this collaboration has enhanced awareness about Hill’s presence in Pakistan and increased our institutional familiarity with Pakistan’s AEC industry.”

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As Country Manager, Syeda looks forward to doing more to develop our business in the country. She expects the position to be demanding, requiring innovation and strategic thinking, but adds that it will allow her to continue taking initiatives for the benefit of the company and contribute to policy development related to human resources, administration, finance, governance, and more.

“Construction in Pakistan is facing difficulties at the moment,” Syeda goes on. “So, the path will not be easy, but I am committed to making a positive impact on my team, at Hill, and in my country. I hope to cultivate teamwork and empower my colleagues to grow while supporting Hill’s Pakistan operations. I also hope to create development opportunities and grow our teams in the coming years and maintain a quality operations performance, while balancing employees’ professional needs, their individual well-being and aspirations, and our business goals. I strongly believe that ‘we succeed as a team, and we fail as a team,’ so I will take this opportunity to thank my team for their much-needed assistance during our hectic and exhausting periods, as well as Saïd Mneimné for his guidance and support throughout my journey with Hill.”

Syeda Fakhar-Un-Nisa has 20 years of experience in the AEC industry. Based out of Hill International’s office in Karachi, she currently serves as Hill’s Country Manager for Pakistan. A self-motivated, service-focused professional, she has provided procurement, contract administration, and claims services on high-profile projects throughout the country.