Mulija Sikira Lokvancic recently joined VINCI Energies Belgium as a project engineer. This first post has enabled the young Bosnian to fulfil her life plan in her adoptive country.
In May 2023, Mulija Sikira Lokvancic was finally able to return and visit her family in Bosnia, more than 18 months after arriving in Belgium. This 25-year-old, who has been working as a project engineer at VINCI Energies Belgium since October 2022, had to complete a long and tedious process to obtain her Belgian visa and work permit. “Throughout this difficult time, VINCI Energies was fantastic, supporting me and waiting for my application to be accepted so they could hire me,” she says.
Mulija Sikira Lokvancic’s history with the country she considers her adoptive home began in Sarajevo. As a student of electrotechnics (“My father worked in an electrical power plant, and the sector fascinated me from an early age”), she met her future husband, a Belgian of Bosnian heritage who works in IT. After completing her studies, she and her husband decided to settle in Antwerp in September 2021.
“The first time I went to a supermarket on my own, Flemish, I panicked because the people in the supermarket didn’t speak English. That was the day I decided to boost my skills in Flemish as a way to respect this country, its people and its culture, and to be independent.” In a matter of months, Mulija Sikira Lokvancic had mastered both languages.
But there was one more fear to overcome. “As a hijab-wearing immigrant woman, I was worried about the kind of welcome I would receive. In a country where people wearing hijabs are excluded from most public-facing roles, I was afraid I wouldn’t find work and wouldn’t be accepted.” Although the move to Belgium and life change were sometimes difficult emotionally, Mulija Sikira Lokvancic has no regrets. “I now feel fully integrated and useful here in Antwerp. When I went back to Bosnia to see my family, I felt homesick… For Belgium,” she reveals, smiling.
Mulija Sikira Lokvancic is extremely happy with her project engineer role, which she found by replying to a job offer on LinkedIn. “This is a job where you have to be creative to adapt to parameters that can change at any moment, and you need to know how to fulfil customer requests. The great thing about this work is being able to see in reality what you imagined and calculated on paper. From office work to site visits and team meetings, every day is different.”
“With my business unit manager, who gave me confidence, and my project manager, who is always readily available, I’ve been really lucky!”
In her first eight months at VINCI Energies, Mulija Sikira Lokvancic has already worked on three major projects. “My first project was fitting out a laboratory at Ghent University Hospital. Very shortly afterward, I worked on construction of a six-floor office building in Brussels: this was my first experience of fieldwork; I met the site manager nearly every week, and he paid close attention to my comments.”
Her third project was a 12-storey building with a roof garden, once again for Ghent University Hospital. “As before, my work on this project mainly involved performing calculations for the lighting systems, electrical outlets, fire safety systems, etc.”
Hunger to learn
The fears that plagued Mulija Sikira Lokvancic when she first arrived in Belgium now feel like ancient history. She is extremely grateful for the welcome she received, especially at VINCI Energies. “With my business unit manager, who immediately gave me confidence in my job interview, and my project manager, who is always readily available to answer my questions and encourage me to move forward, I’ve been really lucky!”
The young engineer is very demanding when it comes to training. Starting this autumn, she is taking a course to learn French to facilitate discussions with her manager in Brussels. Her longer-term ambition is to become a project manager and lead her own team. She expects to achieve this objective with the same perseverance and the same pleasure she takes in her weekly hikes, a passion she shares with her husband.