Job title: Graduate engineer, Halcrow
University: Cardiff University
Degree and classification: MEng Civil Engineering (Hons), First Class
Graduated: June 2006
Why did you choose your degree?
I liked the idea of being able to contribute to major projects and having something real to show for it at the end. I’m really looking forward to the day when I can drive over the first bridge that I’ve been involved with.
What motivated you to apply for the job you’re in?
I had already worked for Halcrow for some summer placements and for an industrial placement year while I was at university.
I was lucky enough that they offered me a job before I returned for my final year. And I knew that the bridges team here is very good, so I pretty much bit their hand off at the offer!
What did the application process involve?
Having been offered the job on the back of my work placements I didn’t have to go through the normal recruitment process. It really took the pressure off in my final year at university and let me concentrate on my work.
What does your job involve?
Working for the bridges team means that there are always interesting projects on the go. I’ve been lucky to get to work on a major new bridge across the Thames in east London. The current procurement stage of the project is directly related to my final–year project at university so it’s particularly interesting for me. I’m also spending a lot of time in the client’s office which is giving me a good insight into their way of thinking and working. The job itself can cover all aspects of a project from feasibility stages, through to design and then being on site to oversee the construction. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to experience all of these over the next few years.
What do you do on a typical day?
Every day is different, which is what I love about the job, but whatever I’m doing it’s usually as part of a team so communicating with other colleagues – if they are on the next desk or on the other side of the world – is vitally important to getting my job done.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
I enjoy it when I’m busy and the pressure is on. Working in a team can be great and you get the chance to meet different people from different disciplines which can open your eyes to the other aspects of a project beyond the engineering side. I also enjoy telling my friends and family about what I do – everyone seems to find bridges interesting! The fact that every job is different also means that the work is always fresh and new in some way or other.
What are the most difficult aspects?
When things get hectic it can sometimes be a struggle to juggle all the jobs that you’ve got to do and still meet all the deadlines. You need to be sensible with how much work you take on.
It can also be frustrating when the general public really has no idea about what we do.
I don’t think civil engineers get enough good press – people only seem hear about the things that go wrong. We’ve got so much to shout about as an industry, we need to make people more aware of the successful projects we’re involved with.
What advice do you have for students considering a similar career path?
Try to get some work experience as soon as you can. It’ll help you decide what type of career you want to go for eventually. Try to vary it though – have a go at a little bit of everything, you might be surprised what you end up enjoying the most. And always ask any questions you’ve got, people are usually glad to help so don’t be afraid. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!