International Women in Engineering Day – An Interview with IntES Architect Nguyen Huyen

Ms Huyen, an Architect in IntES’ Hanoi office, kindly agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to share her experience and passion for engineering and architecture for this year’s International Women in Engineering Day #INWED23. An incredibly hard-working and gifted architect, Huyen is also a very friendly and supportive member of the IntES team. With an inspiring attitude towards her work and point of view as a woman in engineering, we share her perspective and career story so far…

What first sparked your passion for this field and led you to want to work in engineering?

I was born in the suburbs of Hanoi in the early 90’s, when Vietnam entered the renovation period. I was attracted to the multi-storey houses I would see in movies and newspapers and always fantasized about them in the same way that a child dreams of living in a castle from a fairy tale. When I was just a kid, about 9 or 10 years old, my father renovated our house. My uncle helped him and drew some simple designs in pencil of how it could look and how to renovate, and seeing this really inspired me. It made me really interested in the idea of designing beautiful homes and buildings when I saw him draw our house as he did. When I was a kid my family’s house was very simple, so I would always imagine myself living in multi-story houses, beautiful houses with wonderful decorations and nice lighting and furniture. From that moment on, I believed I would create those beautiful buildings. The idea that I could design these places myself was what made me think to pursue a career in architecture and engineering.

Can you please tell us about your path into engineering?

I had a friend who studied with me and he taught me some things about different engineering career paths that he thought might interest me; after I looked into many of these options, he helped me in my decision to choose to study architecture. I studied at Hanoi University of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Architecture. I took subjects like advanced math and specialist subjects such as soil mechanics, and undertook varied projects including urban planning projects, landscape projects, public construction projects, high-rise building projects, interior projects and more. I also studied some architecture history – learning about lots of famous architects like Norman Foster for example.

After university my first job was as a Technical co-ordinator, and that’s when I started to learn more about the project development process, and coordination with other teams in engineering.

Were there any challenges along the way?

Sometimes, yes. One of the biggest challenges to being women in engineering and entering the profession as a woman is that some people don’t appreciate women the same way as they appreciate men in the same work. This means that women sometimes have to work harder to be perceived on the same level as men. I personally think that women do work harder in many respects, and this ability can actually be an advantage. But most importantly I think that women and men can work equally well in engineering and architecture. Do you know Zaha Hadid? She is a famous architect and created iconic buildings all over the world and she said “Architecture is particularly difficult for women…”, and despite the difficulties she had so much success. Men in engineering and male architects are great admirers of her work, just as women are. I’ve never doubted that this is the right career for me, it’s only ever been this choice of career for me. These challenges just drive me to move forward and prove myself, to convince those people beyond doubt that women are just as capable of performing exceptional engineering work just as well as men.

“Architecture is particularly difficult for women; there’s no reason for it to be. I don’t want to blame men or society, but I think it was for a long time, the clients were men, the building industry is all male.”
– Zaha Hadid (Multi-award winning architect and advocate for women in architecture)

What’s the best part of your job? What do you enjoy most about working in Engineering / being an architect?

The best part… probably I most enjoy that work is always being renewed, there’s always a next new exciting challenge in every new project. Of course, yes, it’s always wonderful seeing my designs brought to life; I love to see what I imagined, what I drew on paper, and created in 3D on the laptop become true, real buildings. But I also really like the contact and working with so many talented people in different fields. Resolving technical problems, discussing it within a team of expert professionals and finding solutions together is really fun. I also actually really like submitting my documents to meet the deadline too – it’s really satisfying.

Tell us more about your current role at IntES…

I’ve been working at IntES for about a year now. My role is to produce high-quality accurate design drawings, technical documents, construction details, project schedules and design presentations for all the different stages in the project. I also organize an overall strategy for documentation and identify as-built designs and final building information models (BIM), as well as coordinate with clients, colleagues and sub-contractors during the project implementation. I’m really satisfied with my job here; we use BIM360 models to design almost all our projects and I enjoy that my job role is to create, coordinate and bring to life these multi-dimensional models as a team (with the sub-contractor) and submit drawings and documents from this extensive model to our clients. I work directly with the PM (Project Manager) who will receive and prepare the client input/feedback and then create the project schedule. I then follow that schedule ensuring I meet all the deadlines with my work.

My work is quite varied. On a daily basis I’m preparing some drawings, some documents, exchanging project information with team members… and then big milestone days include things like meeting the deadlines for the submission of documents for different project stages, and also celebrating successes with colleagues and clients, and sometimes sub-contractors as well. We have some great parties at IntES!

We get to work with many different clients in many different markets at IntES. I think my favourite is getting to work on F&B (Food and Beverage) market clients. I enjoy them most because they have unique standards that have to be met, which is a fun challenge, and also because this is a growing popular area in Vietnam, so there are lots of interesting new things happening in this market. I also enjoy the agricultural projects and others too… but I like F&B more!

What else do you enjoy about working for IntES Specifically?

The team I work in… they’re full of energy – very enthusiastic and rather professional too; we all cooperate and coordinate projects well together… it’s all very casual and friendly which is so nice.

I really appreciate how working for IntES is very flexible and offers a good work-life balance, especially for myself as a working mother. I have 2 children and it’s great that I can work as an architect but also have time to take care of them at home and do my work on my house too. It’s so important to have a balance between your job and everything else and I feel that I have that here.

Also, I personally feel IntES is a very supportive place for women in engineering… and other departments too! Everyone respects women in the company and has respect for the work we do, regardless of what role that is; there’s good equality in our IntES community, as a company it is equal and supportive to everyone, not just women, it’s very inclusive.

The reason I wanted to work at IntES specifically is because the company has teams of every discipline for whole construction projects: architects MEPs, C.S., Process, Piping, Plumbing… that’s quite special. It’s a great thing to be able to experience the whole project process, not just one part. And I also really appreciate the professional management process at IntES, which helps me develop in-depth in my career.



What are you working on at the moment?

There are some projects that I cannot talk about because they are under NDA’s, but I am working on a manufacturing project right now – at this current stage I am submitting detail designs and permission designs to government. It’s progressing well.

What would you consider your biggest achievement of your career so far, or most memorable experience or project?

I think about the Carlsberg project I worked on a lot, it was a big project in the last year and this is an exciting F&B project to be a part of. It’s incredible to work on projects for clients with big household names and popular products, like beer… and I like beer too!

What’s it like being a woman in engineering? Do you feel proud to be a successful woman in what has historically been a male-dominated field?

Yes, of course! I feel very proud to be a successful woman in engineering. As I’m sure do all the women in IntES that I connect with, also including those in the BD team, HRT team, Finance and others in this engineering company. As women in engineering, all the women in this company are always very friendly and supportive to one-another… everyone in fact is very helpful.

In engineering/architecture specifically, I feel women in general can be more detailed, that is to say more detail-oriented and also more patient with preparing their drawings… and when correcting drawings too. The technical side is no more difficult for women because we have the technical knowledge too. With the modern technology we have, women can use this software and our skills to control the quality of the drawings and of our work, just the same as men can. So really, it’s no different being a woman or being a man when you’re an architect or engineer.

What’s nice is that I now see more and more young women wanting to enter the field of engineering, I feel like now is a good time for women in engineering. There are lots of different paths into engineering now that are more accessible for women.

What advice would you give to young girls thinking about a career in engineering?

To young girls I would say this; believe in yourself, you have the skills, you have the ambition, you have the passion for the engineering field and the architecture field, so just keep moving forward. And don’t care about the difficulties of being women in engineering – the world is changing, and I’ve found that men in this field are also supportive of women in engineering and want to see more women in engineering too. STEM subjects at school are so interesting, everyone can study these subjects, it’s not just for boys!

Finally, what’s next for your career? Do you have any particular ambitions or things you’d like to achieve?

I want to become a senior architect one day, study and gain more certifications and overall just achieve and grow with the company …and have a lot of projects too! I will try hard always and continue to enjoy working in my team and hopefully work on some even bigger projects.