Jessica Ritchie

Jessica Ritchie

Why did you decide to study at the University of Leeds?

I chose to study MEng, BEng Architectural Engineering at the University of Leeds because very few universities offered the opportunity to study both subjects. Its a great course for people who enjoy the more engineering based subjects but who still have a desire to explore creativity and apply it to projects. I also chose Leeds as the city offers such an array of inspirational buildings and structures.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed for your course so far?

The best aspect so far has been the third year project, an opportunity to apply of all the knowledge I had so far gained from previous years to a design project really allowed me to gain a greater understanding of what I had learnt so far. The third year project brief was to design a multi-storey office building. With very few constraints this allowed me to really explore all the options available and design a really unique building, as a result I submitted a project I was really proud of and has also resulted in a portfolio I can bring to interviews. In both first and second year we also undertook group design projects providing vital preparation for when working in project teams once in the industry. The course also provides a range of labs to attend which is great as I feel its important to be able to practically apply what we learn in the lectures.

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

I am working for "Evolve - Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers" who are based in Central London. They are a company of around 25 and are involved in a whole range of projects. It is Evolve's priority to produce high quality engineering whilst ensuring the buildings they create make a positive difference to the end user. Many projects are refurbishments in London (office and residential) but Evolve are also involved with new builds and extensions of residential, office and retail projects, designing in steel, concrete and timber, as well as drainage design and foundation design. Evolve are a really people focused company, including both clients and employees, and I feel the following quote really sums them up; "When we started our firm we wanted to do things differently from other engineers. Our distinctive approach focused on one simple idea: putting people first." This is something which is really apparent when working at Evolve.

What is your role within the company?

My role within the company is very similar to a graduate engineer's role. I am involved with projects which have progressed to various stages, from pre appointment to construction. I am given various design tasks to complete, such as beam sizing and checks. Alongside this I assist other project engineers and associates with preparing for meetings and reviewing and summarising incoming reports. 

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

A typical day for me starts at 7.00am with a two hour commute into London, normally arriving at the office at 9am. My day can vary considerably, I can be involved with internal meetings for projects, design team meetings at site or offices, liaising with architects and various design tasks required for all the projects I am involved with. For example, modelling and FEM analysis, can be a ground floor and basement design where the project became too complicated to design solely through the use of TEDDs software and hand calculations. This was due to an additional client requirement to cantilever a portion of the basement. Through using some software called SCIA I have been able to model various load cases, including hydrostatic pressures and wind loading, as well as determining minimum required areas of reinforcement and auto design of reinforcement.

What have you enjoyed the most and have you got involved in any interesting projects? 

I have really enjoyed the challenge some of the projects have presented, due to the fact many projects involve existing structure you have to be a little more creative in your solution. I have also been involved in projects in Mayfair which are exciting, especially for site visits! Site visits and design team meetings are also a highlight of my placement so far, as it has given me a greater appreciation of how different professions interact within the industry. I have also really enjoyed the social aspect of working at Evolve, including terrace lunches, pub visits and even a trip to Barcelona!

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I wanted to undertake a year in industry for two main reasons. The first was to gain practical experience of what I had already learnt at university, and then take this experience to my final year. As I felt with more of a working knowledge and appreciation for industry practices I would gain more from my final year. The second reason is because a year in industry really sets you above other applicants to jobs as you already have an appreciation for how a consulting office works and also how to apply your skills and knowledge in the working environment. 

What do you hope to get out of this experience? 

I hope that by the end of my placement I will have greater confidence in my design ideas and solutions and also greater personal confidence. I also hope that I will have a firmer understanding of the core design principles within structural engineering and an appreciation for preliminary sizing.

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

My main advice is definitely do an industry placement if you can! The experience is invaluable and you learn so much as well as making good industry connections. I started doing some work experience the summer before I started my year placement which is how I ended up working at Evolve. I did a two week unpaid internship with them which allowed me to meet people in the company and hopefully make a good impression ahead of applying for the year placement.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students? 

Leeds is a fantastic city for students as everything is accessible, from city centre shopping to hiking in the Yorkshire Peaks. The city doesn't feel too big and daunting (for those coming from the countryside!) and yet offers everything a bigger city would. From big nights out to comic book shops to the Royal Armories it really does cater for everyone!

What are your ambitions for the future?

In the future I hope to become chartered, something which the university prepares you for through a 'professional skills folder' which helps to outline which goals you can aim to complete during studying and then once working. The University of Leeds offers many opportunities to prepare you for the future, with many societies to join and the option to become year and school reps, all of which help develop important skills.