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My job explained: Graduate civil engineer

civil engineering bridgeSamantha Doherty explains why she chose to become an engineer and describes why everyone of us relies on civil engineering every single day of our lives.

When did you decide to become an engineer?

I didn’t completely decide that I wanted to do engineering until after my first year of A-levels when I did some work experience at an engineering firm, but I have always been interested in engineering and construction.

Was there anything or anyone in particular that inspired you?

Knowing that I can shape the future of the built environment that surrounds each and everyone of us and that I can leave behind a permanent part of my life for long after I have gone is pretty inspirational.

How long did it take to train?

I completed a four-year degree, three years of study and a full year paid industrial placement, which enabled me to get my graduate job. Now that I have graduated I am still training towards professional membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the body that represents civil engineering, which should take me about another three or four years.

Can you describe a typical working day?

Generally I am involved in one project at a time often due to size or my role, but a normal day would involve answering technical queries from the contractor and constructing my designs. I also get involved in correspondence with the client and prepare fee proposals for future work.

What's the best thing about your job?

It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing, but the best things have to be the sense of achievement when a design is turned into reality and the variety of projects I get involved in. No two days are ever the same which keeps the job interesting.

What do you like least about your job?

The main downsides are the potential for long hours when trying to get a project ready to be sent for client approval and having to make site visits in the winter when it’s cold!

Have there been any challenges in getting to where you are now?

I was the first person in my family to go to university and this was hard, especially moving away from family and friends, but after getting there I soon realised everyone was in the same boat and I soon made friends and settled in.

Also being a female on an all male construction site was another of the challenges I faced. I overcame this by having confidence in my ability and showing that I knew my job and after a short while I was accepted as part of the team.

What skills and qualities are important for your role?

It’s useful to be determined and patient as things don’t always go right the first time. It also helps to have a good sense of humour, especially when working out on construction sites.

What advice would you give someone following in your footsteps?

Gain as much experience as possible in both the consulting and contracting sides, particularly summer placements and work experience, as this shows prospective employers that you are eager and keen to work as an engineer.

What difference do engineers make to society?

Engineering can be used to overcome some of the most difficult situations, e.g. earthquakes, floods etc, and used to assist in improving peoples quality of life in areas of the world less fortunate than out own.

Without civil engineering there would be no roads, airports, canals, bridges, dams, drainage, sewer systems, water, gas and electricity supplies, trains or other modes of public transport. Civil engineering is relied upon by every part of every person’s day in some shape or form and that, in my opinion is the most useful thing about engineering.