It is an eye-opening experience and would certainly push you to do more in your life, build and strengthen your potential as a global leader.
Abdoul Aziz grew up in Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa and moved to South Africa, where he received the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship to come to the US as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. He was selected as a part of the 2019 GLBOE Ambassador Program. Let’s hear about Abdoul Aziz’s transformative experience traveling to Singapore and the Philippines with GLOBE.
Can You Tell Us a Little Bit About Yourself? What made you interested in the GLOBE Ambassador Program?
During the summer, I was an undergraduate student from UC Berkeley going into my senior year, majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Structural Engineering.
I was interested in the GLOBE Ambassador program because I wanted to develop certain personal qualities, international knowledge, and the technical skills necessary to work effectively in various global settings as a civil engineer. I am a firm believer that engineering is significantly influenced by diversity. The inclusivity of different people and mindsets within a group of engineers contributes to creating a diverse set of ideas that build upon distinct life experiences and relationships with the world.
Throughout this trip, I challenged the status quo and took the initiative to pursue new ideas. Concurrently, I wanted to build bridges of trust and respect with the communities around me. Broadly, I wanted to learn more about other languages and cultures, further develop teamwork and group dynamic skills, and immerse myself in the business, engineering, and education realms of other countries. This trip to the Philippines and Singapore was also about encouraging the contribution of diverse individuals to empower and strengthen their respective communities. Engineers should embrace diversity, consequently allowing themselves to achieve their full potential.
Furthermore, this trip was a way to solidify my personal development and goals as a civil engineer. I was interested in being a civil engineer who has a global mindset and presence. Yet, whenever I am working on a project, I still approach solutions with a local mindset. I wanted to be an engineer who seeks to create socio-emotional growth by empowering individuals and communities to attain economic prosperity, stability, and advancement. That trip was an opportunity to look at global problems and reflect on some of the best courses of action. This eight-day trip to the Philippines and Singapore had the power to transform me from an “engineering student” into a “real-world engineer.”
Where did you go on your trip and how did you engage with the social enterprises or start-ups, or large industries there? Any companies or organizations that caught your eyes?
I went to a lot of places, and I engaged with many social enterprises and start-ups. To name a few, I went to the University of the Philippines, Diliman Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Ayala Corporation, National Engineering Center in the Philippines, and ETH Zurich Future Cities Lab, Micron Technology Corp., Nanyang Technology University, and Venture Corporation Limited in Singapore.
An organization that caught my eye was Phildev, or Philippines Development Social Enterprises Start-ups such as FAME, Cleaning Lady, Gazlite, Bambuhay, and Uproot. I met many extremely open-minded entrepreneurs and practiced a community design-centered approach to come up with a magnificent solution to local issues. Similar to Côte d’Ivoire, the Philippines needs many innovations to help with resources. It was inspiring to see what these start-ups are coming up with to help the community.
In general, their points of view and endeavors were stimulating as they expanded my horizon, as well as concretized some of my own entrepreneurship thoughts.
Meeting Startups at PhilDev Event in the Philippines
What did you enjoy about the trip? What are some cultural differences? Did those differences have some impact on you?
I enjoyed the trip to the Philippines. The Philippines is pretty similar to my country with the weather, the scenery, and the ambiance. Yet, their willingness to make the community a better place and entrepreneurship spirit is something I had not experienced before. I also enjoyed Singapore a lot. Singapore helped me picture what the future of human living conditions and standard of living looks like. My time in Singapore somehow completes the beginning of a self-discovery journey I started at UC Berkeley. After my time there, I was guided by one goal: developing scalable technologies that will ensure the structural integrity of infrastructure in developing communities around the world and the African continent.
Has this experience helped you in your academic or professional journey?
When we went to Singapore, we went to the ETH Zurich Future Cities Lab. It was life-changing. For the past year, I was trying to find a crossroads between Structural Engineering and Data Science. ETH Zurich Future Cities Lab introduced me to Structural Health Monitoring. I knew I found my academic niche. The idea of using a Fiber Optic sensor coupled with computational technics to monitor the health infrastructures and building blew my mind. As a result, I had decided to join the Matthew DeJong Research Group at UC Berkeley and focus on my Ph.D. aspirations in this field. Thus, this trip helped me develop a career goal — structural health monitoring (continued on page 2).