Gabrielle Hawkins, School of Civil Engineering

Gabrielle Hawkins

What was the name of the company you worked for and what do they do?

I worked for Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB), who are design and construction specialists predominately in the water sector. My placement was in Leeds where we were a contract partner for Yorkshire Water Services.

What was your role within the company?

My role within the company was project leader. This involved me having full control over a job and seeing it through from start to finish. I was part of the reservoir team where our focus was on the refurbishment and improvement of safety at various structures. 

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

A typical day in the office could involve preparing documentation for work to begin on site, corresponding with various sub-contractors, and organising and attending meetings. If I wasn't doing this I would be working on designs for the investigation of valve towers and attending site.

What did you enjoy the most and did you get involved in any interesting projects?

I always enjoyed going out on site. Not only could it be to scenic areas where the reservoirs were located but also to other impressive sites under construction where I learnt a lot about the techniques of fabrication and building. I was heavily involved in valve tower investigations at 55 different reservoirs and I lead the refurbishment of a scour valve at Baiting's Dam. I also designed the pipe straps for a scour tunnel at Damflask Reservoir which have now been installed; this feels like a great achievement!

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I always wanted to undertake a year in industry as I was keen to gain experience outside of the University curriculum. Also I was attracted to taking part in a placement year as it counts towards becoming chartered.

What did you get out of this experience? 

I learnt a lot about structures and mechanisms that I hadn't even heard of before starting with MMB. In addition I met a lot of interesting people and as a result improved my understanding and communication skills. Finally, I now understand the importance of planning and time management in a project and how this can be transferred to many other aspects of life. I am hoping that this will help me work more efficiently next year in University.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

I would definitely recommend it to everyone. It is a great experience that opens your eyes to how things are done in the working environment and gives you an opportunity to improve your networking skills. Furthermore, having a year out from studying has increased my motivation to do well in my final two years at the University of Leeds.