- Course: Civil Engineering with Construction Management MEng
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Graduate Engineer at WSP
What have you been doing since finishing your studies? What are you doing in terms of your career?
I am currently working for a global multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy in highways and bridges department. I am in the highways major projects team and our client is Highways England. I am signed up for a three year graduate training scheme and an ICE training agreement, which gives me a structured approach to achieving ICE chartered status. From day one, I started work on 2 large road widening schemes, in their early stages. My work has been supplemented with surveys and other tasks for some of the other projects that we have on.
What company are you working for, what is your role and what does it involve?
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff are a large multi-disciplinary company formed by the merger of WSP and Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2015. I am based in Leeds in the highways and bridges discipline. I work in the highways part of the team and as a team we design roads and improvements of roads for Highways England, the company responsible for the strategic highway network in England.
My role is to undertake a variety of tasks for a large Major Project. These tasks include, report writing, research, CAD, highway design, coordination with other disciplines (environment, geotechnics, structures, rail, technology and lighting). We also have smaller maintenance and improvement contracts which sometimes given tasks, usually survey work including a night-time survey (working behind the cones!).
What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career/will help with your future career?
I undertook Transport Engineering II, which included highway design such as road geometry and junctions. Materials taught me about bituminous materials and road construction. The integrated design projects, 4 in total, gave me experience of looking at the holistic, multi-disciplinary nature of the engineering projects, and working together to coordinate a design that works for all disciplines. The construction site field course, gave me a great knowledge of how projects work in the construction phase and the processes that are involved. Meeting with clients, project management, site management, health and safety were all experienced, and all of which I have applied in the short time I have been working. Rail engineering and construction business management gave me an understanding of the appraisal process for large infrastructure.
Looking back, why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose to study transport engineering modules?
I have always been interested in the built environment and can see the long-lasting and far-reaching benefits that the built environment brings to everyone's lives. I could see that my skills in maths and problem-solving could combine with my interest in construction to bring real benefits to people's lives.
I became interested in transport modules because I could see that these types of construction projects are more about serving the public rather than the money making projects of sky-scrapers and industrial buildings that attract other civil engineers. I also had a lot of experience of commuting, such as commuting on 2 buses for over 1hr to secondary school and catching the train to Leeds for university.
Do you think studying transport module/s helped you in your career? If so, how?
Without the transport modules that I studied I would be severely disadvantaged in my job. I do not think that I would have performed well at the interview stage where I had to design a road alignment over a railway. So the engineering modules gave me some of the technical knowledge that I need on a day to day basis.
I also learnt about the appraisal process and multi-disciplinary nature which helps me understand the processes behind getting a road project on the ground. The modules gave me higher level overview of the transport world.
My dissertation gave me skills in GIS which are not common in graduates. I have used these skills a small amount and it sets me apart from all the other members of my team. This will probably become more noticeable throughout my career.
What was the best aspect of the course/the University and why? Any highlights?
The integrated design projects were definitely very useful it was the closest simulation of a real world project that you could get at university. They were very hard work but very rewarding and definitely the highlights of the year. Construction site field course was also a highlight, an intensive week long module working in teams learning practical construction skills on the job in a short period of time to produce a structure, in my case a 20m long bridge. Furthermore, running the project as a real project with progress meetings with the client. This covered pretty much every aspect of running a project on site. It was a great venue, with great team spirit between fellow students.
What other activities outside of your studies were you involved in?
I didn't get involved with any societies at university. But I did get a summer placement and used this experience to present to younger students about the importance and rewards of getting experience. I have also been back to university since to pass on skills and knowledge that I learnt whilst doing my dissertation.
Outside of university I helped, and still help, out with a couple of children's groups. I had a Saturday job throughout my degree also.
What would you say to students thinking about studying a civil engineering course with at Leeds/thinking about the same career?
People have been building things since the beginning, we cannot go one day without using something that has been designed by a civil engineer. We are building bigger and better things all over the world that provide vital services to everyday people. If providing these types of services interests you and you want to be part of solving some of the big problems that are facing mankind today then study Civil Engineering.
The name of the university will set you apart when you come to look for a degree, and when you say you have a degree from Leeds you will be the envy of some of your colleagues. Leeds Civil Engineering courses give you the full range of skills that you need for working in the engineering. Leeds is one of the biggest cities in the UK with a long standing student culture that means that it has everything that you will need as a student. Leeds receives a lot of investment and will always provide you with a live examples of Civil Engineering projects that you won't find everywhere. Whilst I was at university, we visited construction sites of a large concert arena, and a motorway upgrade. Apart from this you could see first-hand high-rise buildings being erected and improvements to the road and rail infrastructure. Seeing these projects help you to see how your projects fit in to the real world. Not every university location will have the range and accessibility to these projects.