Autodesk is best known as a global leader in 3D design, engineering and construction software. Building on Autodesk’s technical expertise, the Autodesk Foundation supports innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. In 2022, the foundation offered a six-month Tech Lead Development Program for architects, engineers, and designers across Autodesk Foundation’s portfolio — people like Nardos.
Splash is thrilled to receive support from the Autodesk Foundation, and we are so proud of our Construction Supervisor Nardos for her hard work throughout the leadership development program! Hear more about her experience below.
How long have you been at Splash and what is your role?
I have been with Splash for almost three years. I started in January 2020. My role is a construction supervisor, which means at any given time we could have up to 10 contractors working at different school sites, and I am in charge of making sure the work is done on time and at the quality Splash expects. This includes everything from our handwashing stations, drinking stations, filtration units, to toilets and more.
Where did this career path journey start for you?
I have three older brothers, and two of them are engineers. When I got to university, I knew that was what I wanted to study. I first got my degree in civil engineering and then my masters in structural engineering. I started work as a civil engineer but made the change in my career path because I wanted to work with kids and communities and make a difference.
I am from a small town: Fitche in Oromia Village, about one hundred ten kilometers from Addis Ababa. When I was growing up, we only had two taps for the entire school. Imagine, for a school of one thousand kids, only one tap for drinking and one for handwashing. I know how hard that is, and it means so much that I can give back to our community through my work at Splash.
How is it being a woman in such a male-dominated industry?
At Splash, everyone is supportive, and I really appreciate that. Of course, I wish I wasn’t the only female in our infrastructure team. I think women have an interesting perspective to bring to the design of our work and it’s important to have more of those voices in the day-to-day work and in the design process.
Tell me about your experience with the Autodesk Foundation?
Splash has has been working for a long time with Autodesk and the Autodesk Foundation, and it’s been a really great experience. I was nominated to the Tech Lead Development Program — it’s prestigious, only 22 people are selected. I was the only one from Ethiopia, so I was really proud to represent my community. It was a six-month training, and the idea is that people who are in very technical fields of work often don’t get the opportunity to focus on leadership.
The culmination of this was the Autodesk University conference I attended in New Orleans a few weeks ago. There were more than ten thousand people there, and it was truly an amazing experience.
What was the most fun part?
This was my first opportunity to travel outside of Ethiopia — my first time in the States. I was amazed by the roads, the parks, the greenery, and just how nice everyone was. The engineering technology I saw at the conference was really inspiring. It was also great to be surrounded by colleagues from other African counties and to meet people from all over Asia.
What did you learn from this experience with Autodesk?
Two things I would take away from this experience:
1. We need to adopt new technologies for Splash so we can have more efficiency in work. As a country, Ethiopia could benefit from more innovation.
2. I learned so much about leadership: teamwork, communication, listening skills. These are skills that I can now take with me to my day-to-day work in a way that I never thought of before.
Would you recommend the program to others?
Absolutely. As technical people, we don’t always focus on our leadership skills. And this is so important for us to be exposed to. For example, every day we have so many stakeholders to communicate with: contractors, school communities, government sector officials, and internal teams. This leadership training gave me the tools to collaborate and communicate better.
Leading by example is something I learned through this experience. We are serving the community at Splash — but we need to also be leaders. Learning to do both and do it well is something that I now think about in ways I didn’t before.
What’s your hope for the future?
I want my own construction company. There are a lot already in Ethiopia, but I think there are gaps I can fill. I want to focus on water-related issues. So many companies are focused on big cities, but I want to help other communities like where I grew up. I want to help children and those in need.
Since 2017, collaboration with the Autodesk Foundation has enabled Splash to design our first mass-manufactured handwashing and drinking water stations in just one year, produce thousands of handwashing and drinking stations for schools in Kolkata and Addis Ababa, and establish a social enterprise model to scale distribution.
In addition to its catalytic funding and in-kind support like Autodesk software and Autodesk pro bono consulting and interns, Autodesk’s design and engineering expertise have been integral to Splash’s successful design and manufacturing process. Splash’s team members around the globe have had access to the same cutting-edge software and training opportunities that Autodesk’s corporate clients receive, allowing them to complete their work more efficiently and build industry-competitive skills, ultimately helping us reach more people around the world with clean water, better toilets, and improved hygiene environments.