Dubai-based Irena Kapo is the Co-Founder of BIM Engineering Consulting Services FZC. She talks to The Industry Leaders about moving from her native country to further her education and how she admires people who don't forget their roots.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I needed a fresh start and a different perspective in my career.
More than 20 years back, my journey started when I decided to move from Albania, my original country, to Italy. Growing up in a communist dictatorship, passing through civil war and a fragmented scholarship due to an unstable country was difficult, so, in 2001, I applied to study Architecture at Polytechnic University of Milan. After more than 17 years in Italy of fantastic experience and a lot of learning, it was time to move, so I came to Dubai.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Currently, I work as a Consultant/Design Manager in the AEC industry using BIM. On a day-to-day basis, I work with clients to understand their issues and determine how BIM can help solve their problems, save time, and lower costs.
As a partner in BIMECS (BIM Engineering Consulting Services ), I am responsible for the technical teams and all sorts of activities, which range from consultancy and modelling services to detailed project planning.
What gets you excited about your industry?
There is a time before BIM and one after BIM for me.
Things are more linear and less flexible. Steps are rigid, and the project phase guides the communication with the other stakeholders. Your professional growth is less in contact with other disciplines.
BIM is a process, not a linear one. You can model reality and prevent most of the clashes that will happen. It helps you reduce time and, most importantly, have all information and stakeholders in one place. It's like travelling through time for me.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
The best advice came from my grandma and my mother in two different critical moments of my life.
"Do your step, go, see, if you don't like it, you can always turn back. You are lucky to do this; not everyone gets the possibilities or understands them."
What, or who inspires you?
Many people inspire me, though I can easily identify some of them with the female part of my family and AEC industry. In terms of who has inspired me to date, I would start with Marion Mahony Griffin, one of the first licensed female architects in the world, the unforgettable Zaha Hadid, the clean modernist Kazuyo Sejima and one of my last discoveries in UAE: Summay Dabbagh.
I admire people who embrace change, but who don't forget their roots.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
We never finish learning.
Keep your technical skills up, improve your communication skills, build a good team, follow conferences, speak to different people with different backgrounds.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
It's still to come.
However, if I had to identify one, it would be the first project I worked on in Dubai. The complexity of the project, plus a multicultural team, and a language barrier were challenging and, at the same time, exciting.
Finally, being a partner in a company and owning part of it is a new challenge and a new perspective.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I think I would divide it into 3 parts.
1 - Invest in BIMECS and the teams
2 - Open a centre for societal, art and environmental therapy
3 - Make some nice gifts for family and friends
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I like to discover new spaces or events in the city. I also enjoy cooking, a Netflix series, or even a card game to switch off.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I wish everyone could better understand the potential of BIM (Building Information Modelling).
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
TED Talks and Open Bar comedy.
How should people connect with you?
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