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Jemmila Leaders - Fadhillah Norzahari


Meet our Jemmila Leader Fadhillah Norzahari a Geospatial specialist and sessional academic at University of New South Wales. To nominate yourself or another inspiring Muslim woman, click here.


”I love the fact that people I meet at networking events tend to remember me because I am different, but it also means that they tend to listen to what I have to say and to what I can contribute to the industry…”

You were chosen as a Jemmila Leader thanks to your passion for inspiring young women to pursue engineering and furthermore we think your profession would be  interesting for many of our readers to know more about. Tell us how you got into your profession!

My father is an engineer, and I grew up surrounded by engineers. As a result, I grew up playing with both Barbie dolls and building blocks, while having a keen interest in being outdoors. I was either always riding my bike or swimming with my friends at our local pool. At school, I had an interest in both science and mathematics, and in solving problems in general, so engineering was a natural progression for me. My love for the outdoors and astronomy led me to study Geomatics and Geospatial Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). I have both undergraduate and postgraduate (research) qualifications in this degree, and I also tutor and lecture in this area at the university on top of my consulting career. I have always seen the importance of having more women participation in the engineering field, so I have been an ambassador at UNSW since my university days, and have been volunteering at university open days in the hope of recruiting more girls to study engineering. Engineering is a very male-dominated industry, with less than 15% women making up the workforce. In order to reduce gender-bias in decision making for the betterment of our future, it is thus important to have a better representation of both genders in this industry.

 We think many are curious of what a Geospatial Specialist does, can you explain more to our readers?

Absolutely, it might not be a career that many have heard of before. Geospatial technologies are used in a wide range of industries. UNSW explains the profession geospatial engineering as engineers who "measure large-scale and/or highly dynamic features using technology such as global navigation satellite positioning systems, such as GPS, airborne LiDAR, terrestrial laser scanners, high-resolution mobile laser scanning, robotic total stations, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or commonly known as drones)". These technologies are used to create geographical information which provide understanding of our physical environment, such as a terrain map, aerial photography etc, a basic application of this technology would be the universally used Google Maps and Google Earth.

One of the reasons why I studied this at university is because I wanted to job security, and when I was told that I would be guaranteed a job in this field both domestically and internationally, I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for the course right away! I chose UNSW for its reputation of being the biggest and best engineering school in Australia. I knew this would open many doors in terms of getting the best education, program, exchange, and internship opportunities On a lighter note, if you ever needed a break from campus life, the university is within walking distance to Coogee Beach, which conveniently connects with the very well-known Bondi Beach via a coastal walk. During the winter months, you might even spot a whale or two!



Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, Sydney, Australia


You mentioned that your profession is heavily male-dominated, how is it like to work in this type of environment?

It can be as easy or as difficult as you make it. I enjoy the problem solving and decision-making aspects of my job, so I embrace this fully, and speak up when I need to. When you have confidence, good work ethics, and have a sense of pride and responsibility for your work, people will respect you.


We can assume you stand-out in the industry being a hijab wearing Muslim woman. Have you faced any obstacles due to this and if yes how do you handle it?

Being in the minority means you stand out like a sore thumb, especially when you are a woman of colour, have a funky name, and wear a hijab. But I do not see that as a hindrance, in fact, I embrace it and make the most of it. I love the fact that people I meet at networking events tend to remember me because I am different, but it also means that they tend to listen to what I have to say and to what I can contribute to the industry. I am very grateful for this.

 3D laser scanning and mapping of sea cliffs to build a new boardwalk


You have taken on the role as Ambassador for University of New South Wales (UNSW). Tell us more on what the role entails!

I volunteer at university open days, and travel to high schools to talk to students about my education and work in the hope of recruiting more students, particularly girls, to study engineering. I am a people person, and I love interacting with people, exchanging ideas, and hearing their views on their future plans. After all they are our future.  

”I believe that we all have a part to play to make this world a better and safer place for the future generation.”

Who has been your main source of inspiration?

My parents have been the biggest source of inspiration for me. I grew up in many different countries thanks to my father's job taking us around the globe, living and schooling in five different countries in four different continents. I went to eight different schools, and despite the constant uprooting from one place to the next, they have managed to raise us into responsible adults who take pride in our education, heritage, and background. They taught us to think critically, to make the most of everything, to be grateful with what we have, and the importance of keeping in touch with friends and families. 

You have been awarded Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship for your postgraduate studies, as well as several domestic and international awards in your field. Congratulations, that is very impressive! What does these award mean to you?

It is a responsibility to do well and to do my part to serve the greater community that I am a part of. My passion in engineering comes from my love of solving problems, and wanting to make this world a better place. As cliche as that sounds, I believe that we all have a part to play to make this world a better and safer place for the future generation.

Fadhillah in a recent visit to Stockholm, Sweden. Pictured here in the beautiful Stockholm Public Library created by the world famous architect Gunnar Asplund.


What is the next step in your career?

I am toying with the idea of completing an MBA, and moving into a management and advisory role. I am still working out the pros and cons, and choosing the best schools for this new future endeavour. So if any of you have any tips on what's a great school, reach out!

Now moving on to a lighter topic that we both love: fashion! Describe to us your work style. What do you wear on a normal office day and during meetings with clients?

I am a new convert to wearing skirts to work. Since starting to wear the hijab full time a couple of years ago, I have struggled in finding the right balance of modest yet fashionable pieces for work. I embrace brands like Jemmila with open arms as they make power dressing for professional hijabis all the more accessible! Dressing well affects your confidence positively. I am a firm believer that you need to dress for the job you want, not for the job you have, within bounds of professionalism that is. So #ladyboss is my goal, and that is how I choose to dress daily.

What Jemmila piece is your favorite?

Now this is a tough one. I love the Jemmila range, and how versatile it is to style, and how seamless they are to be intergrated to my existing wardrobe. If I had to pick a favourite, the olive green ensemble from the Vancouver Fashion Week is one of my favourite pieces. I cannot get enough of the colour combination!

  Fadhillah's favorite Jemmila design as seen on Vancouver Fashion Week 


Info Fadhillah Norzahari,

Age: 32

Education: Undergraduate and postgraduate in Geomatic & Geospatial Engineering from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia

Favorite leisure activity: Sailing, hiking, and learning languages

Most recent read book: Currently reading 'The Tiger's Wife' by Téa Obreht 

Motto: Travel often and travel wide, for it broadens your horizons, and turns you into a storyteller"


Fadhillah's top tips

  1. Similar to my motto: Travel often and travel wide, for it broadens your horizons, and turns you into a storyteller.
  2. When you cannot afford to travel, read voraciously, as it opens up your mind and helps you see the world through a different lens.
  3. Don't be afraid to question how things work and why they work in a certain way, and don't be afraid to be the voice of change.


Interview by Faduma Aden