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Prof Anusha Shah (ICE's 159th President)

Prof Anusha Shah (ICE's 159th President)

Senior director, resilient cities, Arcadis


Project management, Climate Change, Environment, Water


United Kingdom
My highlights

Youngest and first female chair of ICE London Region in 2009 and youngest ever chair of the Thames Estuary Partnership in 2017

Becoming a fellow of the ICE in 2016

Part of the global leadership team on a bankable feasibility study of a £6bn phosphate mining project for Saudi Arabia

My working day

Since starting my own business, Plan for Earth, each day is different!

My typical day starts with praying followed by an exercise and breakfast. After that I check the latest news, particularly on climate change and sustainability. I need to know what’s happening globally as it’s not something that has local implications only, and moreover it’s an evolving field.

I check my emails and plan my week ahead. I mostly work from home on projects, I’m either on phone calls or meeting clients in and around London. Part of my time is spent in providing strategic guidance to the core team at the Thames Estuary Partnership, a charity working towards sustainable management of the Thames estuary.

Most days I have invites to either participate in panel discussions or speak at thought leadership sessions.

I’m also working with a partner on making our industry inclusive. I read articles and listen to podcasts from other industries. I co-chair the ICE London & South East Diversity Task Force and sit on the Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Panel. These two roles keep me busy from time to time.

I also make sure I invest some time in mentoring and guiding young and mid-career engineers who reach out to me.

To ease the pressures of the day, I like to transport myself to a different world in the evening. I either go for a walk with my husband or catch a movie on Netflix.

I’m a civil engineer and I’m also someone who constantly thinks of global problems, how to change the world for better, contribute to make it fair and peaceful, solve water scarcity and create climate resilience and leave behind assets for our future generations.

My career inspiration

I grew up on the Indian side of Kashmir, a beautiful valley on the foothills of Himalayas. The natural surroundings and its interaction with the built-up elements fascinated me from an early age.

I knew I wanted to work on something that was more outdoors and provided solutions for conserving this environment but wasn’t sure what that could be.

Architecture attracted me and I thought this was the only profession that would allow me to work in the natural and built environment.

Although I passed all the analytical exams, I failed the drawing part and the next obvious choice seemed to be civil engineering. I’m so pleased I failed, as otherwise I would have never discovered this wonderful profession.

Anusha Shah speaking at an ICE London AGM.
Anusha Shah speaking at an ICE London AGM.

We asked Prof…

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

For a project to be successful, one needs excellent PR skills, and commercial and political astuteness on top of technical skills.

Which civil engineering myth(s) would you like to bust?

Civil engineering is boring, you have to be very good at maths and it only involves construction.

Civil engineering deals with all aspects of land, water and air – everything that surrounds you!

You can be as creative as you want in not just producing technical designs but also in addressing financial, communications and environmental issues related to infrastructure.

Would you recommend a career in civil engineering?

It’s a hugely interesting, fun and rewarding profession which enables you to build and connect societies, provide technical solutions to environmental problems, boost economic growth, and create opportunities across myriad fields.

You can be on site one day or in a plush corporate design office the next day or discuss infrastructure policy of the country with senior politicians the following day.

This profession is what you make of it!

Also, if you want to solve global issues such as climate change and water scarcity, this is the profession that equips you with skills and lets you sit in the driving seat.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

There are many! 2012 London Olympics, Thames Barrier, Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s London Super Sewer and the Pyramids of Giza.

Today, I’m keen to work on any small or big project that brings a smile to people’s face, especially the underrepresented and vulnerable communities.

I want to make sure that I contribute to infrastructure projects:

  • That are resilient and ready for the future.
  • Can adapt to a changing climate.
  • Use innovative technologies not just for shareholders but for environmental and societal good, too.
  • That bring out full potential of a diverse workforce.

What about being a civil engineer inspires you?

Knowing that I can a) use my experience, skills and personality to make a tangible and positive difference to people’s lives and b) do everything in my capacity to provide solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Anusha's career story

I completed my schooling at Presentation Convent School in Kashmir, India.

I moved to New Delhi for higher education and studied for a degree in civil engineering at Jamia Millia Islamia.

In 1999, I was one of the two candidates globally to win a Commonwealth scholarship to pursue an MSc in Water & Environmental Engineering at the University of Surrey, UK.

My favourite projects