She's an Engineer- Alexandra Mather

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Route into engineering

I completed my A-Levels in Maths, Physics and Further Maths before choosing to study Civil Engineering with Project Management at the University of Leeds. Whilst lots of people study straight Civil Engineering, I enjoyed having the opportunity to combine my studies with modules focusing on Construction Management! At my University there were lots of different combinations that could be chosen – including Civil Engineering with Transport, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architectural Engineering.

Job description

My job consists of the design of new bridge structures – my involvement can be anywhere between the planning phase all the way through to the construction process. I also work on projects focusing on the preservation of existing bridges! This ranges from visiting existing bridges to complete inspections – and reporting about the physical state of the bridges to identify if they are safe and working as they should, to assessing bridges – working out if the bridge can support the loads and forces that it was designed to support. I work with a variety of bridges; one day I could complete an inspection of a masonry countryside footbridge, the next planning for the design of a new steel bridge carries a highway and rail track!

A typical day could involve assisting Senior Engineers with bridge inspections – taking photos of the bridge and making notes about its condition, ready to put into a report to send to the client. It could involve completing designs for different aspects of the bridge and displaying these through sketches and professional drawings, created using a range of computer programmes. It could include attending and hosting meetings with different teams to solve project problems, as most days I collaborate with Rail Engineers and Highways Engineers on large projects. The most exciting part is seeing my designs come to life! The most rewarding part is knowing we are making a real difference by making bridges safer all over the country.

My advice would be to not worry about what you want to be when you grow up, follow the subjects and areas you’re interested in and you can’t go wrong! When I was 15, I had never heard of the job “Civil Engineer” – you may not have heard about your dream job either. Also, with the advancement of technology the job you end up in may not exist at this current moment in time!

I was inspired to pursue a career in Engineering when I attended an Engineering Careers event with my Sixth-form. The event showcased all the different kinds of Engineering I could get involved in – ranging from Civil and Mechanical all the way to Chemical and Aerospace! It was Civil Engineering that stuck out to me the most. I was inspired by the range of projects in the sector – skyscrapers, bridges, tunnels and man-made waterways to name a few!

I am a part of a number of different committees encouraging girls to pursue careers in Engineering and supporting the females that do! These are “Womens Engineering Society: Tyne and Tees Cluster” and “Womens Engineering Society Early Careers Board”. As a part of the committees I attend committee meetings, plan and promote events we hold and do lots of networking! I also run the Tyne and Tees Cluster Instagram account and make posts. I also enjoy travelling to see friends on the weekends – as I studied in Leeds and worked in Newcastle but now live near Liverpool, I have friends all over the country and get to see some amazing things when I visit them!

The proudest moment in my career so far is being involved in an award-winning mega project – the A19/A1058 Coast Road Junction Improvement Scheme! The project was local to me when I worked in Newcastle and consisted of the upgrade of an existing junction to create a three-tiered roundabout. I was a part of the Quality Assurance team as a Graduate Highways Engineer. Being a part of the project gave me exposure to collaboration between different disciplines such as Highways Engineers, Bridge Engineers and Geotechnical (soil and the ground) Engineers and gave me an insight into life on a construction site. I got to complete site walkovers and documented Health and Safety aspects along with completing traffic drawings using specialist drawing software! It was amazing seeing the construction site transform into a successful part of local infrastructure that had lots of benefits, including reducing traffic jams in the area.

A.Mather 3 pictures