What did you study?
I studied MEng Civil Engineering with a modern language (Spanish) at Sheffield University. I decided to study engineering as a mature student because I believed that it would be a challenge and that engineers can help improve all aspects of our world.
Who do you work for?
I work for Mott MacDonald, who are an employee-owned management, engineering and development consultancy serving the public and private sector around the world. Mott MacDonald were voted 5th in the 20 Best Big Companies to Work For in the Sunday Times survey and won International Consultant of the Year in the 2009 NCE/ACE Consultants of the Year Awards.
What do you actually do?
I work in the water sector of the buildings and infrastructure division. I am currently working on mine water remediation schemes for the Coal Authority, where I am involved with the design of schemes that treat polluting water emanating from redundant coal mines.
I am also involved in modelling drainage systems that reduce surface water runoff in order to help prevent future flooding issues on new developments.
Why did you decide to go into this area?
It is an area of ever-growing potential, as current generations will have to be able to deal with extreme weather scenarios such as flooding and drought and be able to achieve this through improvement of current and building future infrastructure.
I enjoy the fact that I am able to be involved in projects that are sustainable and that aim to improve the environment and water quality in the UK.
What do you like most about what you do?
I love the fact that no two jobs are the same and no two days at work are the same. I like the possibility of being on site one day and the next researching a topic of which I have no prior knowledge. For example, there was a project that I worked on recently which had glow worms on site and an environmental assessment was carried out to establish their preferred habitat. I certainly didn’t think that I would be involved in understanding where glow worms prefer to habit whilst I was studying at university!
Are there any downsides?
It is becoming more difficult to be involved in large projects as these have been reduced due to the credit crunch. Although, having said that, I believe that in the near future there will be major infrastructure spending that will open up good opportunities.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths of a Buildings and Construction Engineer?
I believe that effective communication is key in all areas of the industry. Good management systems aided with communications in office based environments. On site it is also essential to be able to communicate with and to relate to other people. I also believe that you get out what you put in and that being involved in the industry outside of work is very important.
I am currently Regional Education Coordinator (REC) of the ICE Ambassadors in South Yorkshire and have recently joined the ICE graduate and student committee as University Liaison Representative and GNET representative for the national GNS committee. I believe that being involved helps me progress in my career and hopefully helps inspire others to join the industry. I also believe that a good work-life balance is very important. I really enjoy my outside interests such as rock-climbing and badminton.
What would be your best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector?
I would not worry too much about which specific area of civil engineering you would like to pursue once you have completed your degree. When I started my degree I thought that I would have preferred structures and I didn’t enjoy water in my first year at university, then I decided to go into it when I graduated.
Because the degree is so broad you can decide exactly which area you like as you progress. A lot of employers will let you rotate through various disciplines and you may find you prefer another discipline to that which you originally chose.
Take advantage of ICE events and competitions such as the student and graduate paper competition. I entered when I was encouraged to do so by my supervisor and I didn’t really think I would be able to get to the final. However I did and came third in the national final and I am very proud of my achievement. These competitions/events are worthwhile entering to be able to personally develop and hone skills such as communication skills which are essential for a career in engineering.
Would you undertake further training to further your career?
Certainly, one of the areas that I am intrigued by is law. Law would probably have been my second choice of degree, so I am going to attend a CPD course from September on law and contract procedure which covers the syllabus set out by the ICE for the legal examinations curriculum. I hope that this will improve my understanding of the legal intricacies surround engineering contracts.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Civil engineering is such a broad field that if you choose to enter the it you will have a very wide choice of career paths – you will also be able to have a direct impact on people’s lives.
In the current climate it is even more essential to broaden your CV and make the most of opportunities presented to you. Working as an ambassador in schools is very rewarding because you can help explain what exactly civil engineering is and raise awareness in younger students. I have had many cases where students didn’t know what civil engineers do but were very excited to enter the profession after speaking to a volunteer ambassador.