CIBSE Role Models - Hakeem Makanju

To celebrate Black History Month, we are launching our new CIBSE Role Models series to help inspire and promote a diverse workforce in our sector. We'll be asking a diverse range of individuals from across the CIBSE community to share their stories and experiences. Today we hear from Hakeem Makanju, Building Services Manager at Transport for London and Chair of the CIBSE Home Counties South West Region.

My name is Hakeem Makanju; I am a Chartered Engineer with over 20 years experience in Building Services Design Consultancy and Facilities Management.

After graduating in July 1999 with BEng (Hons) in Electrical & Electronic Engineering (endorsed with Systems for Environmental Services), I progressed my career path as follows:
  • In July 2000, I was employed by Furness Green Partnership as a Graduate Electrical Engineer; and thereafter signed up to their in-house accredited graduate training scheme which formed the basis of my initial professional development
  • In July 2002, I went in search of new opportunities and was offered a role with Doy Webster Partnership (now part of White Young Green) as an Electrical Design Engineer
  • In June 2005, I applied for an opening and secured a new role with Buro Happold as an Electrical Design Engineer
  • In March 2009, after a fulfilling 8+ years in Design Consultancy, I decided to go into Facilities Management, to apply my design experience and broaden my knowledge on what transpires in buildings from Operations to Decommissioning. This led to my current employment with Transport for London as their Building Services Manager
In conclusion, my career path has afforded me the opportunity to work on national and international projects of varying sizes, types and with a value range between £25k and in excess of £120m.

A few of the projects that I have been involved in are;

Liston Road (Marlow, Buckinghamshire); St George Wharf (Vauxhall, London); City of Westminster College (London); GWT Tower (Brentford, London); Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (Oxford); 14 Pier Walk (North Greenwich, London); Jennie Lee Building, Open University (Milton Keynes); Al Abdali Tower (Jordan); Madrid Law Courts (Spain); Almaty Tower (Russia) and King Abdullah International Gardens (Saudi Arabia)

My interest in engineering started from a very tender age of 5. As a child, I was very inquisitive and always wanted to know how things worked. This often led me to pull apart electronic gadgets and toys. When I look back now, I can’t help but feel bad for breaking open those toys and electronic gadgets, for this reason I am forever grateful to my family for allowing me to feed my curiosity as a child.

Also, my dad worked for a civil engineering company known as Société General Enterprise. He would regularly bring home magazines featuring a variety of construction projects; I believe this sealed my interest in engineering.

My biggest challenge was when I got made redundant at the early stages of my career. Instead of allowing it to derail me, I stayed positive and reapplied for new roles in the industry.

What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?

As an equality champion, becoming the first BAME member to hold the honorary Chair of CIBSE Home Counties South West Region is one of my proudest moment.

Who has been your biggest professional role model?

It would be unfair to narrowly pick one person as my biggest professional role model in the industry because everyone’s contribution, no matter how little, has resulted in who I have become today.

With that said, if I go back to the very beginning of my career journey, I would have to acknowledge Mr Alan Hildrew, an Electrical Engineer who mentored me and taught me how to stay calm under pressure; this has helped me immensely along the way.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To my younger self,
  • Remember to believe in yourself, only then will others believe in you
  • Your character as a person is just as important as your competences and soft skills; guard it jealously
  • Network with other professionals within and outside of your industry because your network is your net worth
  • Make sure that when you are walking up the ladder you make friends because one day if you come tumbling down these individuals will lend a helping hand and get you back on your feet quickly
  • Be willing and open to other career paths in the industry
  • Don’t allow others to limit your learning; be prepared to fund it, if necessary
  • Always ‘Aim for the Best’ because if you miss it, you will never be too far from the best
  • No one can understand your aspirations better than you, own it and don’t leave it in the hands of others to decide what’s possible
Find out more about the work CIBSE are doing to improve Inclusivity and Diversity in the building services industry.

Read the latest articles from Black History Month on STEM Careers

If you'd like to take part in our Role Model series, please contact inclusivity@cibse.org 

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