For Syrian born and raised Somoud, fascination about how people moved through a city and the far-reaching impacts of transport infrastructure started early.
“The Hejaz Railway passed by my city and there was an ancient rail station located between my home and that of my Grandparents,” Samoud says.
“As a child I would walk past the site and think about how people used it to travel across countries, and how many lives had crossed the station. I was thinking about community and movement from an early age, and this is very ingrained in me.
“It is something I do to this very day. When I am at a rail station, I immediately start observing how people are using the space. Is there a disability entrance, is it safe for women?”
As Jacobs’ Director Sales Operations New Zealand and South East Australia, Somoud leads a multinational team across three countries – India, Australia and New Zealand – and is passionate about how rail drives the social connection and economy of communities.
“When you invest in transport infrastructure, you raise a community.
“It doesn’t matter where my team members are physically located. All markets are connected because every project is a city shaping opportunity.
Throughout Somoud’s career she has swum against the tide.
When studying Civil Engineering at Damascus University, she specialised in transportation and was the only woman to do so in her year.
“All the other women went into project management, but I found mobility fascinating.”
A GIS roads project undertaken by Somoud and two colleagues scored the highest marks for a graduation project, an achievement particularly significant as it was very rare for a transport project to top the field at this time.
“What makes me smile is the following year many more women decided to specialise in transportation. I didn’t think of it at the time, but on reflection I was role modelling how you can go into transport engineering and thrive.”
Upon completing her engineering degree, Somoud worked more than 12 years in Dubai, and was involved in two nation building projects –The Etihad Rail project (the biggest win for her organisation’s global line of business in 2018) and leading program reporting for EXPO 2020 Dubai.
“For EXPO 2020 Dubai, we were managing two master plans: one for the event and one for the legacy smart city. It involved literally turning the desert into a smart city,” she says.
“When I visited EXPO in Dubai Christmas 2021, I had tears in my eyes as everything was amazing. EXPO is the pride of my career. It gave me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, expand my international network and think from a programmatic point of view – all very valuable experiences when I came to Australia in July 2019.”
As a leader Somoud is committed to intentional inclusion.
“In teams you must understand and respect people’s differences and give each person the opportunity to play to their strengths and harness the diversity of their capabilities,” she says.
“I always tell people that my job is to open the door for you, give you a push, be there for you and support you and help you design and build your career.”
Somoud radiates her commitment across the industry through her involvement as an Implementation Leader in the Champion of Change Coalition, working alongside Jacobs Chair and CEO, Steve Demetriou. Between 2018 and 2020 she was Global Co-chair of Jacobs Women’s Network and remains an advisor to the group.
“Being intentional is important to drive change and includes setting and reporting on targets because if you cannot measure it, you cannot change it.
“When you bring inclusion and diversity of thinking and experiences to a rail project you tap into a whole new level of innovation that can only bring better solutions.”