Born in the UK while his father was employed on a contract as a Data Scientist, Zainud-Deen was raised in South Africa. Growing up in a close-knit family, his father’s career in data and technology and his grandfather’s ability to “fix anything” were his inspiration for entering engineering as a career.
Zainud-Deen joined WSP in Africa’s Power team after completing his degree at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was an interesting experience, completing my fourth year and then starting work under lockdown,” he says. “The Power team was extremely supportive, helping me to acclimatise to the world of work and to WSP even though we were all working remotely.”
Originally ear-marked for a career in Building Services, Zainud-Deen was placed with the Power team instead and is currently working on a number of renewable energy projects in Southern Africa. “Africa is rich in renewable energy resources,” he says. “The challenge for a lot of sub-Saharan African countries is not a lack of availability for solar or wind power generation, but rather the funding to make these projects a reality.”
Even so, renewable energy generation plants are being developed all over the continent, and Zainud-Deen says the visible impact these projects make in communities is especially satisfying for him. “I’m currently working on a solar energy project that is really in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “But the impact the project will have – by providing access to electricity to the community that lives there – will be profound. Being part of providing that kind of life-changing access for an underserviced community like this, ties into the passion for using technology and fixing things that I learned from my father and grandfather.”
It’s an exciting time to be involved in the energy generation, distribution and transmission space. Global markets are a buzz with just energy transition and working towards achieving net zero, and at the same time technology is advancing rapidly and leveraging the shift towards renewable energy solutions to provide access in underdeveloped parts of Africa is both challenging for engineers and life altering for communities.
Zainud-Deen is particularly passionate about using the technologies available. “It allows me to work with data and technology, while also using my engineering skills,” he explains. “Though many of the countries we work in lack the funds to invest in cutting-edge technology solutions – such as high-end Internet of Things (IoT) – I am able to use technologies such as AI in my day-to-day work, and of course renewable energy solutions that are fit-for-purpose are vital.”
Zainud-Deen describes WSP as a supportive learning environment for a new graduate. “I started working on real projects as soon as I joined, and I have learned on the job with the support of more experienced engineers. I was able to hit the ground running because I had the team’s support.” He is currently completing a Masters in Nuclear Management through WSP, which has a large business and project management portion to it as well.
As a newly-wed, Zainud-Deen spends as much time with family as he can, and enjoys watching sports with his father on a Saturday.
“I’m really just grateful for the opportunity that WSP has given me,” he says. “It can be a very scary experience as a new graduate when you feel like you really know nothing despite your theoretical foundation - and finding that company that will take the risk of employing and investing in your growth is not always easy. I feel blessed that the team I have joined has such a wide impact in something that I’ve always wanted to be involved in.”