Interview with Raphael Amajuoyi: ‘Get involved and work hard’

The Presidential theme for CIBSE’s 125th anniversary year is ‘Inspire the next generation’. Erato Vasileiou talks to CIBSE Young Engineer of the Year Raphael Amajuoyi about his role models, and the importance of networking and hard work in his burgeoning career

Where do you get your motivation to succeed? Have you had any role models? 

My parents moved to the UK in the 1980s. Growing up as an immigrant child, I sometimes had to work harder than everyone else. This has been the key factor in my journey so far. It is not about being the best in your class, but about working as hard as you can. Pursuing the CIBSE Young Engineers Awards (YEA) and Ken Dale Travel Bursary, I would not have felt any less of myself if I hadn’t won, because I had done the best I could.

Regarding role models, it has been a combination of my parents and the amazing people I’ve worked with. Vitaliy Troyan, my line manager at Hurley Palmer Flatt (now HDR) was a big inspiration and gave me structure in my graduate role. I could ask any question without fear of being judged. 

It’s so important to find someone within the industry who inspires and pushes you to achieve your goals, especially in the early stages of your career. Is there anyone within CIBSE who guided you in your career?

Absolutely. Steven Matthews, the former chief executive at CIBSE – who I met in 2017, when I was in my undergraduate year, and who I am still in contact with – has been such an amazing figure.

There are many other people within the industry to whom I’ve asked a very similar question: what would you advise me to do in the early stages of my career to succeed? The advice is always: ‘Just go out there, try and experience it all, be willing to get involved with as much as possible. Some things you will enjoy, some things you won’t, but you will never know if you don’t try!’ 

With regards to the CIBSE Young Engineers Network, another person who has been crucial in my journey is Ryan Rodrigues, who won CIBSE Graduate of the Year in 2015.

Was it difficult deciding whether to take part in CIBSE YEA? 

Meeting Antoni Sapiña Grau, who had won the previous year’s award, and discussing his journey was pivotal in my decision to apply. Realising how much work, time, dedication and determination went into it made this a challenge for me. I was working in an organisation that needs to make a profit, so I had to ensure I was still be able to deliver at work while finding extra time to prepare for the competition. I had some very long days, but it all worked out in the end.

Sounds like quite a challenge. What else did you gain from the experience?

First and foremost, the understanding that it takes hard work to achieve goals, and nothing is given for free. Whatever success may look like to you, you need to be willing to dedicate yourself to it and trust the process. 

I was first to present [at the YEA] and was worried the judges may have forgotten me after the presentations that followed. However, I knew I had spent the time needed to perfect my content. I learnt that, if you put in the effort, you will reap the results at the end of the day. 

I also got the opportunity to meet people within the industry. Building a professional network is one of the most important things you can do. You can be excellent at what you do, but without this network, you are limiting how you can apply yourself.

What would you advise someone who is thinking of entering the Young Engineers Awards?

Definitely go for it. We all have our strengths and weaknesses – try to understand and work on them in the best way possible. Some people are good presenters, and some get nervous, but that makes us who we are. It is not only about winning – the beauty of this experience is the journey itself.

You will pick up so many core skills to use professionally later, and the exposure to so many people in the industry – and the instant networking – is invaluable. 

Nothing is given for free. Whatever success may look like to you, you need to be willing to dedicate yourself to it and trust the process

What was it about the Ken Dale Travel Bursary that made it the next step for your career and development?

I didn’t think I would apply for another competition until hearing about the Ken Dale Travel Bursary. It would give me the funds to travel and carry out research – too good to be true I thought!

I had noticed differences in how male and female colleagues were experiencing thermal comfort within the office. I had studied this before, but the award gave me the inspiration to research this topic further. I wanted to use the bursary to compare offices in the UK with offices around the world in different climates, and understand whether there was a similar phenomenon.

Winning the bursary was the best thing I have ever done. Being able to travel and study was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

What were the biggest challenges in organising this research, and how did you manage to overcome these?

The most obvious challenge was that I didn’t know anyone in those cities, or where to start. Tackling this highlighted the importance of the people you meet. In San Fransisco, I got in touch with someone I had met at the ASHRAE Conference, and she helped me to find case studies there. With Brazil and Doha, I was able to do the same.

Another challenge was budgeting, booking flights and accommodation, and managing expenses. Thankfully, my employers gave me permission to work remotely, which was fundamental to completing my study abroad while continuing to manage work.

Do you have any top tips for keeping focused on your goals and not giving up on bad days?

One of the most important things I would say is ‘keep knocking on the door of opportunity’ – and that applies to anyone. In 2015, I got involved in a competition to produce a report for Property Week. I wasn’t 100% clued up on the topic and was disheartened, but it was a learning experience, and that helped me to win the CIBSE YEA a year later. With this mentality, you will figure out what it is that you enjoy doing and find out how best to apply your talents.

What are the next steps in your career?

My current role may sound far from building services, but it’s not as far as you would think. My role focuses on making sure we invest our money responsibly within real estate.

That has to do with improving the performance of our assets as best we can. I’m able to transfer my technical understanding of building services into the investment space. When developers start mentioning specific things to do with building services, I am able to contribute at a very high level.

The goal for my career trajectory would be to move further into responsible investment – an area closely linked to engineering. I think this is best suited to who I am as a person.

Raphael Amajuoyi's career highlights

January 2022: ESG associate – UK & Ireland and Nordics, at AXA Investment Managers

2021-22: Senior sustainability consultant (associate) at Savills

2019 CIBSE Ken Dale Travel Bursary Award

2017 CIBSE ASHRAE Graduate of the Year

2015-21: Energy and sustainability development consultant

2014-15: MSc Low carbon building design and modelling, Loughborough University

2010-13: BSc architectural engineering and design management, Loughborough University

About the Author
Erato Vasileiou is sustainability and net zero carbon consultant at Faithful+Gould

For more information
The 2022 Young Engineers Awards will take place on 11 October