I am a Graduate Engineer at COWI UK. I am an assistant engineer in the bridge division of COWI UK. I am based in the London office and I work on the design and development of new bridges as well as the maintenance and repair of existing bridges.
I was an all-rounder at school and enjoyed all subjects, but found particular satisfaction from maths and sciences (because the answers were either right or wrong!) I studied maths, further maths, physics and chemistry at A Level and then went on to study engineering at Cambridge (eventually specialising in civil and environmental for my 3rd and masters year).
I am still in the early days of my career, but honestly the first time I designed a rebar arrangement for the pierhead of a bridge filled me with excitement. Using my theory and knowledge but applying it to something totally real and useful was a fantastic feeling, even though it took many attempts to get something that looked right!
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I’m based in the London office, but I commute in from Cambridge. I’ll come into the office and usually have a chat with members of my project team about our goals for the day. This might include writing up some hand calculations, designing reinforcement for a member of a new bridge design, developing a computer (FE) model for stress analysis, or attending progress meetings with clients and contractors. Everybody in my team is supportive and are all happy to help me when I am unsure about how to do something. As I grow in experience and ability, I will progress through the career system and soon be able to help other young graduates with the same problems I’m having now.
What advice would you give to your 15 year old self
Keep going, it will be worth all of the hard work and effort! Stay keen and optimistic, and continue to grasp every opportunity which comes your way. You’ll never know where they may lead… That interview for a short summer placement when your 19 might just land you your dream job when you graduate. (It was for me!)
Who or what inspired you to get into engineering?
I didn’t know anyone who was an engineer, in my family or extended friendship groups. None of my other friends were into engineering and I had no role models in the field. However, when a teacher suggested it as a career route, I loved the idea of doing something different. I was pretty good at science and maths, but I loved the idea of applying it to real life problems. All of these factors fed into the factors which drove me towards engineering.
What are your favourite hobbies, or interests?
At school I was very into music and drama – until I was about 14 all I ever wanted to be was a west end actress. At University I took up rowing and became much more sporty, and now my hobbies include painting, gardening and cooking for my friends.
What are the best and worst things about the job?
I love the peope I work with and the atmosphere in the office. I also love the fact that I am desgining real things which will one day be built into something solid which I can go and see or even stand on myself. It is a steep learning curve from university though, and transitioning to theoretical learning to real-life work is difficult. However I have an amazing support network at COWI and everyone is always keen to take time out of their day to help me.
Where do you see your industry in 25-50 years' time?
Hopefully project managing some big projects for COWI UK. I intend to balance this busy, exciting career with raising a family. I am not scared by this thought – I know that if you put your mind to it, anything is possible. I am also confident that the engineering industry will provide me with the support I need as a woman – to raise a family while also developing a successful career in engineering.
Have you had any career setbacks or challenges you have had to overcome?
I really struggled with adapting to the use of python and coding in design. Many people have helped my set up the right environments and COWI provide learning courses to get you up to the right level of understanding, which I have found extremely helpful. I have never been a great programmer.