Moranda Matthews tells us about how she got into engineering and what a typical day for her at Halcrow involves.
Alongside my degree I kept myself busy by getting involved in the Aim Higher National Mentoring Scheme and the university’s profile raising campaign, where my photograph an an article about my academic background, appeared across Birmingham and in various promotional materials. My entry in an essay competition on ‘What makes the best learning experience for engineering students’, made the shortlist and was published on the Engineering Subject Centre website.
During my final year of study I realised that the aspect I enjoyed most about mechanical engineering is the variety of subjects covered and the breadth of its application in society. It became obvious that engineering consultancy could continue to offer me the variety of work that I had enjoyed so far. I sent a speculative application to Halcrow and was subsequently interviewed in two stages and offered the job all within one month.
I have continued my contribution to both engineering and education in a number of ways. I am a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network Ambassador (STEMNET) and an Education Ambassador for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). Both of these positions give me an opportunity to get involved with local schools, providing support to teachers and advice to students interested in engineering.
I have been lucky to realise my wish for variety having been based at offices in Peterborough, Reading, Cardiff and now at Swindon.
I have carried out flood defence inspections along the Norfolk coast, written press releases for renewable energy grant awards throughout the UK, spent two years seconded into Thames Water as a Lead Design Engineer, designing wastewater treatment systems and I am currently involved in the detailed design of tunnel ventilation systems.
A typical day for me will begin with a catch up on emails and correspondence for my projects. This takes the form of submitting queries to suppliers about their products, organising meetings, providing answers to specific technical queries and ensuring my project deliverables remain on schedule.
My next task is to review the latest round of client comments on my ventilation system documents. In some cases the comments require minor amendments, but sometimes they indicate major changes in design. When working on a large-scale construction project, particularly one that requires the installation of a new tunnel and the refurbishment of an existing tunnel, there are many reasons why your design can change.
The design documents consist of design reports that explain the methods used in verifying the solutions presented, specifications and data sheets that set out requirements of particular pieces of equipment such as fans or dampers and drawings that show both how the new equipment is arranged and how it is interfaced with other systems and support structures.
After a brief quizzing by my design team leader on the latest changes, it is a relief to submit the documents to our document controller for issue and go to lunch.
My afternoon will be spent gathering information for a bid submission. Securing future work is a key part of any business and for each project clients must seek the best available company to deliver their objectives. The process of selecting a preferred services supplier can take many forms but always requires the presentation of previous relevant experience and demonstration of an understanding of the specific challenges of the work.
Our first task is to interpret the request for information from the client’s tender documents and then begin searching for evidence that we can present with our submission. The objective is to provide examples that emphasise the skills we see as paramount in delivering the best service possible.
My final job for the day is to start thinking about where I see my future in engineering. This isn’t because the day was a disaster, but because my latest quarterly report is due as a requirement of Halcrow’s accredited monitored professional development scheme (MPDS). This is my route to becoming a professionally qualified engineer and reaping the fame and fortune that goes along with being a Chartered Engineer.
These quarterly reports are a record of my activities of the previous period and highlights where I have improved in terms of technical and commercial knowledge, problem solving, communication skills and ‘contribution to engineering and sustainability’. The last of these is where I show how I am ensuring the future of engineering is bright by, for example, writing articles for career guides that inspire students to take the path of an engineer.
I am currently studying for an MSc in Water & Waste Engineering via distance learning. I was very lucky to receive Halcrow funding for this. I enjoy the opportunity to study modules that are relevant to some of my experience to date – this helps to combine theory with practice. The focus of my current module is providing low cost sanitation and water supply in developing countries – what I find interesting here is that the fundamentals of the design process are the same but the framework for delivery and funding are very, very different.
At times work can be hectic and stressful but it is always interesting and challenging. I am left to wonder lf I’ll be calling Swindon my home for a few years, or if an opportunity will arise for project work somewhere a little warmer.