Be the architect of your own future

A new year has started and it’s time to review what we have achieved in 2014 and set goals for our new adventures. Our January Young Woman to Watch most definitely has a long list of achievements to be proud of and we can’t wait to see what shooting star architect Nasma Salhi has in store for 2015.

A Belgian national, Nasma spent most of her childhood in Louvain-la-Neuve. As she had a strong interest in both exact sciences and art she found it natural to study civil engineering and architecture at Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL). Following her studies, Nasma has had a shooting career and this year led the construction of the new 900-places auditorium at UCL, André Simonart. Her future portfolio includes the responsibility for the 11th laboratories tower project.

Read Nasma’s story of how she became the architect of her own career and how she beat the gender inequalities that exist in her profession with a positive attitude and a good sense of humour.

And remember to keep on following the careers of our young women to watch!

Happy New Year!

Nasma Salhi, Architect & Civil Engineer


How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I found myself very early attracted by music, (violin and piano are my favourite instruments) that’s how artistic research became part of my life, so I naturally got directed  to an educational curriculum that would allow me to go on with this approach. In the same time I had the opportunity to initiate myself to artistic research through hand-drawing in several architecture projects which gave me a lot of inspiration during my studies as well as later in my professional life.

How much courage did it take to set up your current project?

A lot! The burden of large projects and heavy responsibilities combined to my young age and my young experience forced me to work twice as hard, the pressure is even greater than I am a woman in a man’s world and that I personally can’t tolerate failure where men succeed without effort by the simple fact that they are supposedly the stronger gender.

What were the biggest obstacles/triumphs?

I spent my whole life ignoring the differences between boys and girls, thinking it was an “old-fashioned” problem. I have been fortunate to have received a family education that did not mark the gender differences, as I focused on my studies without paying attention to the fact we were as many girls as fingers of one hand in my class! Until then, nothing to report! Things went wrong when I fully entered into my working life where the gender difference is clearly present! I cannot help but notice that less responsibility and opportunities are given to women, that they are more often victims of job insecurity and must fight harder to get a place to work than men. This return to reality was hard to live with but it was especially harder as the situation appeared to be commonly accepted by everyone… All that leads me to say that my biggest obstacle were the easy way people (both genders) accept an unbalanced reality which is quite hard to change…

“…I saw in the message carried by this organization, a universal message for all young women like me…”

My biggest success so far was merely to achieve hanging on in that world, it was not without relying on the help of Leadarise team members who brought me great support not so long ago. I saw in the message carried by this organization, a universal message for all young women like me, who are only aspiring to a rich and exciting professional life without having to kill themselves to achieve it!

How do you ensure work/life balance?

As I have already stated, music is really present in my life. Having this hobby outside of my work helps me keeping a healthy distance with it. However giving time to others and help others advance through their own difficulties is what really helps me to keep the problems I live at work relative.

Who is your inspiration?

Of course there’s Mum! And I could draw you a long list, but there’s a lady I admire myself for her strength of character and who recently wrote a book about the greatest ladies of our history… Her name is Audrey Pulvar, she’s a very famous French journalist and she speaks about them much better and truly than I ever would, the book is called  ” LIBRES COMME ELLES: portraits de femmes singulières”. In this book, she recounts the path which these women have walked and how they paved the way to allow us gaining our rights, even some of the most fundamentals.

What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to pass on to other young women?

I strongly believe that no success or objective, ambitious they may seem, can resist perseverance, sincerity in your actions and audacity to believe in yourself. Having faith in your ability to achieve your goals, in any field of your life, this is what I wish to all young women of this world.

Would you do anything differently?

Absolutely not.

What will the next 5 years look like?

Well, if the opportunity to become some kind of big boss is given to me, I would certainly encourage other women to hang on to their aspirations … Otherwise, I’d do the same 😉 This crazy world is in desperate need of balance, and it’s up to us, women, to achieve it!

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