Q&A: A professional U-turn: From engineer to regional administrator

07Nov 2018
Mtapa Wilson
DAR ES SALAAM
Financial Times
Q&A: A professional U-turn: From engineer to regional administrator

In this interview with Financial Times staff writer MTAPA WILSON, Tanga Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) ZENA AHMED SAID,-

Tanga Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) ZENA AHMED SAID.

takes time to reminisce on how she got to where she is and stresses the point that it's always important to strive to do your best in whatever occupation you are pursuing at any moment in time. Excerpts...

QUESTION: Please tell us a little bit about yourself

ANSWER: My name is Zena Ahmed Said, and I was born in Tanga in March 1971. My family moved to Tanga from Pemba in 1966, and then to Dar es Salaam in 1973, which is where I was raised. I am presently married with three children - two girls and a boy.

I completed my primary school education at Ubungo National Housing primary school in 1985, and then joined Jangwani Girls secondary school for my O and A-level education from 1986-1992.

I studied at Boĝaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey for my first degree and graduated in 1999 (Bachelor of Science - Civil Engineering). I then studied for a masters degree in Public Procurement Management at Turin University in Italy, and graduated in 2010.

 

Q: What was your first job?

A: My first job was as a works supervisor on the 43-kilometre Wazo Hill (Tegeta) to Bagamoyo paved road project from January 2000 to June 2002.

Q: Who has had the biggest impact on your career, and why?

A: I can’t pinpoint a single person who had the biggest impact on my career. Civil engineering is not something I was particularly inspired to do… it just happened that I received an interest-free loan for my education and the financier was only interested in financing science-related courses. 

I was initially selected to do mechanical engineering at Yildiz University, a Turkish-language college, and decided to change to an English-language university. I succeeded in securing a civil engineering course at Boĝaziçi University through its university entrance examination.

So the choice of career just happened… but then many people contributed to my career development afterwards and I am grateful to all of them.         

Q: What parts of your current job worry you the most?

A: There is nothing that really worries me in my current job. This doesn’t mean everything is smooth - not at all. There are various challenges that I encounter as I do my job, but challenges are normal in any job.

So instead of getting worried about them, I try to see what opportunities can arise out of those challenges and do what I can to move forward. Challenges provide room for growth and it’s a continuous learning process.

Q: What would you say is the secret of your success?

A: I am not sure if it is a secret, but patience, perseverance and willingness to learn continuously have contributed to my success. Everyone has something you can learn from, if you are willing to listen. 

I also try to see the positive side of people and situations, instead of pre-judging with negativity. Most importantly, seeking guidance from God in whatever I do and having respect for all people is key.

Q: What are the best things that you like about Tanzania?

A: I like everything about Tanzania. The people, the environment, the weather, the diversity in culture, etcetera.

Q: What are the things that you hate most about Tanzania?

A: There is nothing I hate about Tanzania. Even those things that seem bad or look like challenges are also good if you look at them as opportunities to do better and thrive.

 

Q: What are your future career plans?

A: To study business administration an also leadership and governance.

Q: What do you do to relax after a stressful week at the office?

A: I like to read self-help books and also books on health matters. I also like watching YouTube on the same subjects.

I also like to read and listen to scholars on various religious subjects. Occasionally I enjoy watching documentaries and good, non-violent films. Spending quality time with my family and going out is also relaxing for me.

Q: What is your message to Tanzania’s young aspiring engineers?

A: First I would like to congratulate them for their career choice. It is a great carrier and they should be proud.

It is also very important to be ethical in your career. To be a good professional takes time, so they should be patient and persevere in their work to build themselves up as respected professionals.

Nobody knows everything, so continuous learning and cooperating with other professionals is also important.

They should not let other people use them. They should always thrive to do their best to contribute to the building of the nation through their work in the best way possible.

Q: How can Tanzania, as a nation, realise its full potential?

A: By every Tanzanian doing their best in the position they are serving. It does not matter what you do… just do it in the best way possible.

If you are a farmer, a teacher, a doctor, a journalist, a politician, an engineer, or any other profession… if all of us can fulfill our responsibilities properly and be accountable, I believe we will be on our way to realizing our full potential fast.

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