Darren Martinelli | School of Civil Engineering | University of Leeds

Darren Martinelli

What have you been doing since finishing your studies? What are you doing in terms of your career?

Upon completion of  my studies, I went straight into work as a Graduate Civil Engineer working with AMK (AECOM, Murphy, Kier) - Joint Venture to design, construct and commission an upgrade to the current live operational Deephams Sewage Treatment Works in London, my place of birth. This was the same project I had worked on each summer whilst at University to gain valuable work experience and it was rewarding to go back each time and witness the continuous progression. Working on a construction site can be tough and extremely demanding, especially coming from the secure and comfortable university lifestyle. However, it was great to have large responsibilities and to be heavily relied upon. My main role as a site engineer was the setting out and surveying of all civil and structural work in my section, namely 300m of large steel pipework, 3000m of ducting, 180m of RC channel and 300no. CFA piles.

What company are you working for, what is your role and what does it involve?

I am currently living and working in Toronto, Canada, as a Director of a startup holding company named Olekt Inc. In short, we provide innovative solutions for a broad range of industries. My current focus is on a project named Autzu. The company provides luxury vehicles for ride-share operations, allowing those who do not have or cannot afford a vehicle to make money through ride-share platforms such as Uber. As the Director of Operations, I ensure that the everyday activities run smoothly while constantly reviewing and evaluating the efficiency of our business procedures. Over the past six months the company has employed over 100 drivers that use the vehicles to earn a primary or secondary income. We have also expanded our in-office management team to help support and expand our operations even further.

Another project I work on is called Virtoi, which introduces Virtual Reality (VR) technology to business applications. The company focuses on applying VR to the real-estate market and architectural space by developing the first full VR property viewing experience for prospective buyers. This enables a 360-degree immersive experience for such buyers, as if they were actually inside the property with the ability to navigate throughout the different views and rooms. The technology has also been applied to 3D renders of pre-constructed buildings, where 3D Revit renders are converted into 360 degree CGI VR experiences to attract prospective buyers years before construction has even began.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career/will help with your future career?

There are many aspects of problem-solving, system building, and management, which I developed throughout my engineering studies, and use on a daily basis to solve the many problems I encounter with running a business. I took great interest in the Structural Analysis modules that the University had on offer, which have enabled me to develop creative 'outside-the-box' solutions to overcome both small and larger obstacles which I encounter daily in my line of work. Most crucially, the Integrated Design Projects were essential to developing the critical teamwork and managerial skills that are absolutely required in the workplace to discuss, collaborate, and manage all interpersonal business relations. It is very easy at times to take for granted the many valuable skills that you can take with you from group work. Working with others to achieve a common goal is one of the greatest skills that is pivotal to a successful career.

Looking back, why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I have always had a great interest in the applied sciences where the use of Physics and Mathematics can be applied to develop practical solutions to many different problems. Civil and Structural Engineering enabled me to use and develop the vast knowledge for the analysis of real-world problems, and to design and construct real-life solutions. The University of Leeds is a top University for many disciplines and is in a fantastic city with a massive student population. The University even provided the option to study abroad which was one of the most life-changing experiences and the main reason that made me move back overseas once I had graduated.

What was the best aspect of the course/the University and why? Any highlights?

The University prides itself as a heavily researched based institution. To be taught and fully supported by lecturers who are world-renowned in their field and continuously contribute to the engineering discipline is truly remarkable. This support system enabled me to always find a member of staff that was willing to invest their time to help me understand and overcome the most difficult parts of the course’s content. Engineering students are generally collaborative, where students are willing to actively work in groups to combine each other’s strengths to find a solution. The final year dissertation was a compelling task which allowed me to specialise in almost every engineering related topic. I chose to explore the evolution of stadia design from the pre-historic to the 21st Century and how the advancements in materials and technologies have enabled us to adopt such fascinating forms that we witness today.

What other activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

I was often involved in peer mentoring, assisting other students in lower years with problems they would be facing. I also occasionally assisted in the University’s Open Days, where I would share advice to prospective students and try to persuade them to choose the great city and University of Leeds. I wish I had been more actively involved in some of the societies and activities. There are so many! It's the one regret I have about my time at Leeds; and by activities I don't mean Canal Mills!

What would you say to students thinking about studying the same course at Leeds/thinking about the same career?

Studying engineering isn’t easy, but if you are motivated to succeed and continuously work at it, you will certainly reap the rewards. It is often easy to get lost in a module so keeping on top of the module content is absolutely vital. Engineering is also a lot broader than you may initially think, as the wide range of modules prepares you to work in a variety of fields after graduation. The skills I have learnt from studying engineering such as being able to work with others, think critically, and problem solve effectively, have prepared me well for the workplace. These core foundations are necessary to become successful in whatever you put your mind towards. The learning process does not end once you graduate, instead it continues to advance as you develop your professional career and gain vital real-world experiences that shape you into a true young and aspiring professional.