Talent Stories I The Experience of Ibrahim Zerhouni I Geotechnical Engineer

4 min read

In a recent conversation, we caught up with geotechnical engineer Ibrahim Zerhouni, who has embarked on a fascinating professional journey, diving deep into large-scale infrastructure projects. Let’s explore the world of geotechnics through his eyes.

You are working on some pretty big projects, aren’t you?

“Thanks to Catalay’s support, I am working at Tractebel Engie where I have been, and continue to be, involved in some of Belgium’s biggest infrastructure projects.  I can mention the Bypass in Antwerp, which is a temporary highway divided into two parts. Then there was the modernisation of the R4 ring road in Ghent, for better traffic flows and a more liveable city for the citizens.”

What project are you currently working on?

“At this very moment, I am engaged in the ‘Rond Ronse’ project. Ronse is a city that is split in two by a high-traffic national road. The project is for a tunnel under the city, thus banning all through traffic from the city centre. This will be the first time that a tunnel boring machine will be used in Belgium for car and freight traffic. It’s an exciting project for a geotechnical engineer!” 

What is your role in this project?

“I am responsible for geotechnical monitoring, collection of geotechnical data and their analysis. These are indispensable steps in this kind of project’s calculation and preparation phases. Without knowledge of the geological situation and the monitoring of changes, a tunnel like this cannot be built.”

Is it a good work environment for you?

“Absolutely! I’m thrilled to be here. I came to Tractebel after finishing my engineering studies, and I am learning so much here! The projects are really up my alley, and this is why I chose to study geotechnics. The work here is fascinating. When I came here, I felt welcome and supported.”

“Also, Tractebel has a broad portfolio of diverse projects. I get to meet and learn from engineers of all kinds of disciplines. Through building up experience here I become more autonomous and get to take responsibility.”

You mentioned that Catalay helped you in landing this job?

“Yes, that’s right. Catalay has a big offer of outplacements; this was the right place for me. They gave me a lot of support, even during the application procedures. And Catalay was of great help in obtaining the work permit. They made the start of my career a smooth one.”

Does Catalay continue to have added value for you?

“On one hand, I don’t have intense contact with Catalay because there is no need for that on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, all relevant people at Catalay — for example, management and the payroll department — are very open to communication and lines are short.”

“Another added value for me is that, through Catalay, I get to be in contact with many other engineers in other industry sectors. For example, through the meetups that Catalay organises. That is really great and contributes to my personal and professional development. I like to say that I now have a ‘double pack’ of colleagues: those at Tractebel and those at Catalay.”

“At the moment, I am partaking in a Dutch language course. All projects that I mentioned are in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Although everybody knows English, communication does become easier when one knows a bit of Dutch. It’s Catalay that organises and finances this course for me. In general, they have a wide offer of courses and training.”

Where will you go after Tractebel?

“Catalay seems to have a good network in the world of engineering, and they make it easy to switch to other clients if the consultant desires. In my case, however, I have not made use of that possibility because I really enjoy working at Tractebel. For me, the question is more, “What will be my next project at Tractebel?” but I’m immersed in the ongoing Ronse project; therefore, it’s not an urgent question.”

Would you recommend Catalay to other graduates?

“Very much so. If you know what direction you want to take in your career, Catalay will likely offer you a good match. Once you find that match, they will continue making your transition into professional life easier. They do it by supporting you in administration, professional development, and even through social events. Catalay certainly gave me a very satisfying kick-start of my career.”

Closing Thoughts

Our conversation with Ibrahim was inspiring. It reaffirms our belief that with the right environment and opportunities, people can thrive. At Catalay, it’s not just about projects; it’s about people, their dreams, aspirations, and the journey of making them a reality.

Written by Alyssa Lefever

Marketing Officer