Name: Kieran O’Connor
Degree: MEng Civil Engineering, the Queen’s University of Belfast
Role: Team leader
Why did you choose the profession?
As I enjoyed maths and geography at school and wanted a career that would give me the opportunity to travel whilst not see me stuck in an office all day, I chose to do a degree in civil engineering.
I decided civil engineering was for me following two summer placements during my course. I worked in a large bridge engineering company in Japan which allowed me to see some the world’s most impressive feats of engineering. The following year I worked in a small construction company in Macedonia building apartments and hotels. Both placements showed me the massive impact civil engineers have on people’s everyday lives and their importance in society.
Your greatest achievement/project to date
The highlight of my career to date was probably a trip around the Honshu-Shikoku Bridges in Japan. I spent two days visiting many impressive structures including the Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge (the longest spanning bridge in the world) and speaking with the engineers who helped make them possible through hard work, communication and innovation. This inspired me to work in structures. I have recently completed my first bridge design and although on a (much) smaller scale as the Akashi Kaikyo, I am sure that I will get just as much satisfaction when it is built!
Why do you think other people should become civil engineers?
It is an exciting time to be a civil engineer at present. There are many opportunities both in the UK and farther afield to be involved with an extremely diverse range of projects. From skyscrapers to small water treatment works in developing countries, civil engineers have a unique opportunity to leave their mark on the world in a positive way and there is great satisfaction in seeing the benefits of your work first hand.
Unfortunately the role of civil engineers is still widely misunderstood and often undervalued. However, with massive investment in the UK including the upcoming Olympics and Crossrail, our profile will quickly improve and there will continue to be great demand for bright young engineers in the foreseeable future.
What attributes do you need to be a civil engineer?
This is a difficult question as there is such a diverse range of disciplines within civil engineering – design, construction, management, contract law and research to name but a few. However, I think a practical mentality, a willingness to take on responsibility, and above all an enthusiasm to change society for the better are key attributes applicable to civil engineers in general.
What are you aspirations and ambitions?
My immediate goal is to become a chartered engineer with the ICE within the next year.
Beyond that, I want to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself and make sure that this includes more international work. By the end of my career, I want to be able to look at some iconic structures like the Millau Viaduct and say "I helped build that".
Why did you choose the company you work for?
After graduating in 2005, I knew I did not want to be an insignificant cog in a very large consultancy early in my career. Owen Williams were large enough to be involved with a diverse range of interesting and sizeable projects yet small enough to allow graduates to take on a lot of responsibility at an early stage and quickly progress towards becoming professionally qualified. I joined the Highways Structures team in the Belfast office a few months after it opened and have seen it grow rapidly since then.
We became part of Amey plc. in 2006 helping it become a "one-stop-shop" for the delivery of support services. This has increased opportunities and diversified the workload whilst retaining the benefits associated with a medium sized company.
In the two years since joining the company, I have been involved in many interesting and challenging projects. I am currently a team leader responsible for the delivery of up to 20 schemes at any on time including bridge inspections, assessments, strengthening and design. I am certainly looking forward to what the future has in store for me!