Name: Jenny Morrison
Degree and university: Civil Engineering, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Work Title: Graduate Engineer, Atkins
What do you actually do? I work in structural design, maintenance and repair, basically looking after a structure from the beginning of construction to the end of its lifecycle. Structures can include buildings, bridges, football stadiums and much more.
My present role focuses on the redevelopment of New Street Station in Birmingham, which is a £600 million pound scheme aimed at meeting the projected increase in passenger demand, regeneration of the local area, and creating a landmark station for the city. My job involves taking the vision of an architect and designing the structural elements – the parts which will enable the building to stand up. The New Street Station scheme involves the remodelling of an existing building whilst maintaining station operations, and we are working out how to use the structural elements to our advantage, without replacing them. I do calculations, sketches and reports for my clients, but I also spend time on site taking measurements and photographs, so I don’t spend all of my time in the office environment.
Were you always interested in Civil Engineering as a career? I had always been interested in the built environment, and when I was very small I wanted to help people in developing countries to have clean drinking water. My grandfather was also a Civil Engineer and he travelled all over the world with his work, which is something which really interests me. I decided that I could combine all of my interests and strengths at school by following the engineering career path, and decided after graduating that Structural Engineering was the choice for me.
How did you find out about this particular job? During A-Levels, I decided that it would be a good idea to go and work for an engineering company to check that I really wanted to go into the industry. Although my grandfather had introduced me to engineering, I wanted to check that spending four years at university was going to be worth it.
One of my teachers at sixth-form College put me in touch with the Year in Industry Scheme, which helped me to find a gap year with an engineering company. After that year I was awarded a student bursary by Atkins. When I graduated they offered me a Graduate position in Birmingham which I took up.
Would you undertake further study to gain promotion? I would definitely undertake more study in order to gain promotion. The working world demands that you learn new skills, and I receive training to improve my technical and non-technical skills. I am also working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer which will enable me to take on technical and management work myself both in the UK and all over the world.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? Civil Engineering is such a broad field that you will get involved with lots of different disciplines. This gives you an opportunity to explore other interests and get a good idea of what they are about. It also gives you a chance to work with lots of very different people, which is something which I believe can be missed out on in other jobs.
What strengths do you need in order to succeed? Good communication is the most important thing about my job. The variety of work makes it necessary to work with a lot of different people, all of whom have different backgrounds and experiences. Listening to people is vital, as you need a good understanding of their needs in order to deliver the most suitable outcome.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to enter this sector? I would suggest that graduates decide on the most important aspect of work for them – and then find the company or discipline which most interests them. If you show enthusiasm for your work, people will go out of their way to get you good experience and work to do – and this really helps your development in the future.