photo of Safayat Hossain

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Shab-e-Barat Night is an important celebration for many Muslims in Bangladesh.

For Safayat Hossain, it was one particular Shab-e-Barat – when he was 10 – that changed the trajectory of his life.

“It’s a night when we do lots of different things. And that night we had a competition between cousins to see who could make the most beautiful structure,” Hossain said.

So young Hossain got to work building a small mosque made of mud. He collected different materials and meticulously assembled an impressive structure.

“I think I got the idea of how to do it from watching my grandparents, who were farmers,” Hossain said. “I saw them work, making their houses stronger with different materials.”

All these years later, he doesn’t remember who won the family competition. What he does recall, however, is infinitely more important.

“I hadn’t noticed, but the whole day my father had been observing me,” Hossain said. “And at night when the program was happening, he told me, ‘One day, I believe you will be a great civil engineer.’

“So when I started at university, I began to learn the theory behind structural design. And I thought, ‘Oh, these are the things that I was doing in my childhood with my cousins.’

“I connected my childhood practical knowledge with my theoretical knowledge obtained at the university. And I think most of my motivation came from my father, who put it in the back of my mind that night. He was always supporting me and wanted me to be a civil engineer.”

Hossain has fulfilled his father’s vision and then some. He became the first member of his family to complete a bachelor’s degree and then earned a prestigious Turkish Government Scholarship to pursue his master’s and doctorate in environmental engineering at Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Turkiye.

He now lives in Germany and works as a project manager for Emser Bahnbau GmbH.

Along the way, he founded his own business, Sustainarch, earned many awards including a top young entrepreneur in the European Union honor, volunteered in leadership positions with several organizations, and even added Turkish and German to the list of languages he speaks fluently (also Bangla, Hindi, Urdu, and English).

ASCE has honored Hossain as a 2024 New Face of Civil Engineering.

He recently spoke with Civil Engineering Source about his career.

photo of Safayat Hossain

Civil Engineering Source: What’s the accomplishment or aspect of your career that you’re most proud of to this point?

Safayat Hossain: In 2016, I was an undergraduate student at the University of Asia Pacific in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And that was the first time I heard of ASCE, honestly speaking.

One of our senior lecturers, Ariful Hasnat, had been honored as an ASCE New Face of Civil Engineering for 2016. And the next day when he came to the class, everyone is congratulating him. There is a huge impact in my country. All the senior engineers who are our inspirations are praising him as the first man to receive this honor.

And trust me, I still remember the day that Ariful Hasnat published this news on social media. I put a comment that said, “One day, I also want to be a New Face of Civil Engineering like you.”

So when I received this email from ASCE now, I was feeling, “Oh my God, like it really happened.”

Now beyond this honor, as far as my greatest accomplishment: I call myself an engineer, a researcher, and an entrepreneur.

The thing that makes me most proud is when I see my work really helping people, and people are smiling. That makes me very proud and lets me know I’m doing the right thing.

Source: How much pride do you take in having already truly an international career and the ability to speak different languages and work in different communities?

Hossain: In 2018, I moved to Turkiye, and I think I soon saw that I was progressing and growing.

I started to see that before, I was in Bangladesh, working with people who are from Bangladesh, and I was always working with the Bangladesh mindset.

And when I came to Turkiye, I saw a completely different scenario. I didn’t see any Bangladeshi there; it was mostly people from different corners of the world – from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America.

Good things started to happen to me. I started to have many ideas, integrating into the international community.

So, I am feeling really proud. Sometimes I try to compare where I am at this moment at my age to where I think a person should be. And I wonder have I done enough?

But at the same time, I’ve started to feel OK. I feel connected to society because many people are following me because of my different initiatives and activities. So I do feel very proud.

Source: What are you hoping to contribute to the profession?

Hossain: In my profession, I have really big dreams. And one by one I’m doing it.

One of my first goals is to help underprivileged communities, where people in many countries don’t have the necessary educational facilities. People may hope to become a civil engineer, but because of the infrastructure, they are not able to. Or maybe they want to become a researcher, but they don’t have the confidence or resources to pursue this.

So I started a program called Sustainarch Research Academy. We provide completely free education to help students start their research careers.

These training programs cover how to write professional articles and submit your work to conferences. When I see people doing productive work because of this initiative, I feel proud. They are presenting their ideas, and in some cases getting scholarships for their master’s and doctorate programs. So this always motivates me.

Source: How does your family feel about your success now?

Houssain: Definitely, it’s an amazing feeling. I feel really honored.

At every turning point in my life there were many people who inspired me. So I would love to give thanks; thanks to those people who ever have made a single contribution in my life, and I think because of them I am where I am today.

I’ll get a phone call from a faraway relative, and they treat me like I’m one of the most important people in my family since completing my graduation and continuing my journey. I think they started to see hope that “my son” or “my nephew” is doing great. Every day I’m growing up with my own hope but also my family’s hope. And those motivations come to my mind when I’m trying to find what I can do next to help.

I feel really proud that whatever my family was expecting from me I fulfilled their dream and hopefully in the near future I will do even more, even better.