The global consultancy’s associate director on her transition from the nuclear sector, her training scheme for chemical engineers and the need for digital transformation

Priya Shah[42][25]

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I initially studied chemical engineering and started my career working as a process engineer in the nuclear sector. A lot of my early career was based on site, where I would be busy designing heat exchangers or replacing valves. During this time my attention was drawn to a number of complex construction projects in progress close by.

The possibilities presented by the construction industry, including the sheer size and scale of the projects in development, is what motivated me to transition my career into construction in 2017.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

When I first entered the industry, I discovered that process engineers would sometimes struggle to get the right experience in order to get chartered; specifically those working in the pharmaceuticals sector.

The nature of projects within construction meant that it is not always obvious to identify examples which are needed to demonstrate the required competences and commitment to attain chartered status.

>> Also read: How to benchmark life sciences project data, by Priya Shah

This was my motivation to develop the pharmaceutical and life sciences training scheme for chemical engineers, which secured accreditation from the IChemE. By developing this scheme, I was able to support graduate chemical engineers on their route to chartership. This scheme is still in place and continues to benefit young professionals.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

I joined Linesight as the world was beginning to emerge from the pandemic, and life was returning to normal. One of the great things that came out of the pandemic was how it raised people’s awareness and focused attention on the pharmaceutical industry. It also highlighted the growing need for life sciences real estate spaces.

Linesight was already established globally in the life sciences manufacturing market, yet was relatively new to the real estate sub-sector. So, one of my first challenges was to understand what the life sciences real estate sector was all about and how Linesight could provide its services to enhance project delivery within the sector.

Developing this sub-sector from scratch for Linesight required a lot of initial market research to develop a robust business case. This was then presented to the leadership team, showing how this was a commercially viable pursuit and ultimately to gain their approval to build the business development plan.

Two years on, through perseverance, a lot of networking, and hard work, it is rewarding to see how far we have come in terms of clients and projects. This sub-sector remains a focus for Linesight and we are delighted it continues present opportunities for us. 

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

Digital transformation is a real focus for Linesight – we like to present data-driven insights and innovative approaches. Our dedicated BIM team are testing some of the most exciting technologies to further enhance the industry and project outcomes for clients.

However, in my experience, universal adoption of new tools has been slow. These tools present a number of opportunities and benefits from a risk, scheduling and cost perspective, improving accuracy and overall project outcomes. Widespread adoption of these tools would be the one thing I would change.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

Be open and receptive to feedback, be it positive or negative, and don’t be afraid to challenge or be challenged.


Source: Shutterstock

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world’s tallest building, with a total height of 829.8m 

Name your favourite building in the world?

The Burj Khalifa

Which famous building do you most dislike?

The MI6 building – it just feels like an architectural eyesore to me.

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

The AstraZeneca Discovery Centre in Cambridge.

MI6 building by Terry Farrell

Source: DncnH / Creative Commons Flickr

The MI6 building designed by Terry Farrell at Vauxhall Cross on the south bank of the Thames

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

For me, being flexible in the journey has resulted in a varied and engaging career to date. I started off being a process engineer in the nuclear industry and I’m now doing business development for the life sciences sector at a construction consultancy.

So be open to new opportunities, no matter how far removed from your current standpoint.

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

I know it’s a cliché but doing my job means that no two days are the same, so you have to wear different hats on different days. As an associate director for a construction consultancy, part of my role entails business development for the life sciences sector, which means pitching our life sciences services and capabilities to prospective and existing clients while also managing internal stakeholders be it the delivery teams, recruitment, marketing or the senior directors.

Astra Zeneca Discovery Centre Cambridge LR

Source: Shutterstock

The £1bn AstraZeneca Discovery Centre in Cambridge was opened in 2021. It is a research and development centre designed to support AstraZeneca’s focus on specialised and precision medicines and foster the discovery and development of next generation therapeutics, including nucleotide-based, gene-editing and cell therapies.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Never regret anything; everything happens for a reason

What do you think your best quality is?

Having the ability to connect with people at all levels. I think this has enabled me to build and maintain relationships with clients which is fundamental to my job.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

In myself, being a perfectionist and a control freak. It means it takes me a lot longer to get things done and I can never delegate as much as I should.

In other people, I dislike those who work to create toxicity within the workplace.

Name three things that you like

Running, cooking and the sound of a champagne bottle popping (then drinking it).

What is your most prized possession?

My son, Lael.

Early bird or night owl?

I used to be a night owl but, since having my son who has just turned 1, I am most definitely an early bird now.

What is your favourite food?


What would your superpower be?

To be able to pause time.