Wisdom Stories Ep.49: Sudhir Dhawan

A portrait of Mr. Dhawan with a quote.

Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage.

“My family got settled in Delhi after moving from Pakistan around the partition. Like many others, my parents started from scratch. Even under those tough conditions, my mother was determined to give her children the best education, to the point that she would prioritise education over basic necessities. I was deeply influenced by her mindset and decided to give fruition to her vision, not only for myself but for my siblings as well.  

I studied engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and did my MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi. My path to these two wonderful institutions wasn’t without adventure. Before I solved the complexities of engineering, I had to master the English language. It worked out well in the end, and I built a solid academic foundation at both these institutions. 

I have spent more than 45 years in corporates in leadership roles spanning engineering consultancy for infrastructure, railways/metro rail, chemicals and petrochemicals, gas pipelines, LNG/LPG terminals, and thermal and hydropower projects. 

My first boss, Dr. Tuhin Roy, had a deep impact on me through his technical and commercial guidance. My induction into NACE, an engineering association, in 1972 started when he was President, and I handled parts of the responsibility on his behalf. Later, I became President of the NACE group and was actively involved in the merger of NACE and ACE to form the Consulting Engineers Association of India (CEAI). Later, I became President of CEAI. 

My deep involvement with engineering consulting continues even today. One of my recent initiatives worth mentioning is the signing of a MoU between CEAI and WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature). It is the first time engineering and nature will be closely involved with FIDIC, an international body of consulting engineers. 

My association with FIDIC is quite old. Currently, I am President of FIDIC Asia Pacific, a group covering 22 countries in the region. Our goal is to design and deliver sustainable solutions to take care of climate change.

During COVID, while I was sitting at home, I thought of forming a foundation involving engineers in the development of infrastructure in areas where government funding does not reach. Thus, the CEAl Foundation, a body dedicated to involving engineering professionals for the upliftment of society, was formed. We try to collaborate with professionals of different disciplines who render voluntary services. Our logo is “Engineers Go Social”, which focuses on not-for-profit initiatives catering to the most vulnerable sections of society. One key initiative was “Pink Toilets”, built for women across strategic locations in Delhi. 

Three people standing outside a 'Pink Toilet'
Sudhir outside a 'Pink Toilet'

Having a long-term vision, along with the ability to make quick decisions, has helped me through my career. I learnt the value of time over the years. It was a simple yet effective lesson that has stayed with me. Another important tenet I have followed is to be honest and sincere. No achievement is worth the effort unless it is grounded in these values. I focussed on building the right culture wherever I worked, which was tied around a strong work ethic and transparency.

Some of my assignments were with global leaders from multinational organisations who were experiencing our culture for the first time through me. I was mindful that I was representing our country and built deep relationships with them, to the point that I was their point person for professional and often personal matters. 

am currently designated as CEO of Aether Engineering Solutions. Aether Engineering provides consulting services in project management for infrastructure, safety, industrial, and energy sectors. 

Today, I am as eager to give my time and energy to my work as I have always been. My message to the Wisdom Generation is to remain active by working and learning. I am motivated by doing new things, especially those that may be out of my domain.”

Read more Wisdom Stories on WisdomCircle

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