Name: Ben Freedman
Degree: University of Bristol, Civil Engineering (MEng)
Work Title: Civil Engineer, Building Design Partnership (BDP)
What do you actually do? My role is to provide civil engineering design of associated infrastructure to buildings, working alongside architects, structural and building services engineers. Through high quality design, my passion is to create sustainable infrastructure solutions. A typical working day includes design calculations, meetings, informal design discussions and occasional site visits.
Were you always interested in Civil Engineering as a career? Most of my family is in medicine, so I was tempted to follow family tradition and become a doctor. However, since childhood I’ve enjoyed solving problems, and at school I was always interested in physics, technology and maths (though I freely admit that maths was never my strongest subject). During my A-Levels I attended a Headstart course run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which introduced me to the wider world of engineering. I chose to pursue Civil Engineering as I realised the positive impact that I could have on society, providing security, health and prosperity for communities.
How did you find out about this particular job? BDP interested me as it is inter-disciplinary (architects, engineers, designers) and has an excellent accredited training scheme. I did a summer placement at BDP’s Bristol office which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was so impressed by the team atmosphere and varied projects. When I was then offered a permanent position shortly into my final year at university, I was keen to take it.
Would you undertake further study to gain promotion? I am working towards gaining Chartered Engineer status through the Institution of Civil Engineers. This involves achieving a number of development objectives, many of which are achieved through experience and attending training events. I would potentially consider further study in the form of an in industry Engineering Doctorate or even an MBA; however, I don’t necessarily see these as a requirement to gain promotion.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? Many jobs advertise that "every day is different". But I would have to say that Civil Engineering has the ability to provide far more than just variety. It is a truly rewarding career path. My role within BDP allows me to be involved in interesting projects which create amazing places for people. Furthermore, a career in Civil Engineering allows you to work around the world. For instance, I am currently the Project Design Team Leader for the sustainable design of a sports academy for the charity Future Hope, which provides homes, education and medical aid for street children in Kolkata, India.
The only downside I can see is that some people still don’t fully understand what Civil Engineers do, as compared to other professionals such as doctors and lawyers. However, once you explain the kind of projects you’re working on and how important civil engineers are to society, they are often amazed and fascinated.
What skills do you need in order to succeed? To be a successful engineer I believe you need the following skills:
- Problem solving
- Analytical thinking
- Ambition and Drive
As an engineer you are always working in a team, so strong team skills and eventually leadership skills are crucial. Engineers are looked to for solutions to complex problems, so lateral creative thinking is a useful strength. The Civil Engineering degree at University of Bristol highlighted the importance of holistic thinking, and collaborating between professions. This made the interdisciplinary culture at BDP especially attractive.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to enter this sector? I would suggest two pieces of advice for anyone considering a career in civil engineering:
Work experience: Spending time alongside professional engineers whilst studying is really important and helps you make decisions post-university. Some companies may even offer sponsorship schemes (I know BDP does). During university, I spent at least eight weeks each summer working for engineering consultants.
Institutions: There are many graduates and student committees for both ICE and IStructE across the country. I am the co-chair for the IStructE Tuesday Group and also on the ICE Graduates and Students network committee in Bristol. Through these committees, we organise regular talks, debates and even "speed-networking" events for students!! These provide a great opportunity to meet recently graduated engineers.
Civil engineers are vital to the prosperity of society. It is very exciting and rewarding to be involved in projects where you can actually see the physical products of your work.