Sad to be out, but Ele and Andrew are both so awesome I don't really mind!
Atkins since graduation, and for Laing O’Rourke as a summer student
Senior Structural Engineer
Atkins Global – a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy
I am a Senior Structural Engineer, and I specialise in the design and construction of underground stations
So a Structural Engineer is an engineer who is involved in the design of something (usually underground stations in my case), and ensures that the structure is capable of supporting its own weight, plus any additional loads applied to it, such as from wind, or the ground, or people walking about, or trains going through it.
I’m a Senior engineer, which just means that I’ve completed my on the job training, and I’m knowledgeable enough to be trusted to run my own projects and teach the junior engineers how to do things properly.
I have ended up specialising in underground structures just because that is the work my company has ended up doing for the last few years. I’m now a bit of a local expert as I’ve done three different underground stations in London. When telling people about underground structures, I usually ask them if they have ever dug a hole in the sand at the beach. What you will notice is that you get water coming in, and the sides collapsing – it is these exact problems that I solve every day as an engineer, just on an enormous scale, and with trains in inconvenient places!
My Typical Day
Expect the unexpected…!
There is no such thing as a typical day on my job – and that is not a bad thing! To give you a flavour, I’ll tell you about today (tomorrow will be different).
I woke up a bit later than usual so I got to the office around 9.40am (I’m not a morning person). The first thing I do is check my emails. I had a question from one of the construction sites I look after telling me that they had built a concrete column in *slightly* the wrong place, and was it okay if they left it there. So I had a look at the drawings, and sent back them a response telling them that it was structurally OK, but that some other bits of the structure would have to change slightly to match. Plus I told them to check with the Architect, because it might affect some windows that were in the area.
At that point, it was about 11am, so I went back to something that I had started the day previously, where I’m trying to modify the structure of a new underground station in London so the Client can build a block of flats on the roof. This has been going on for a while, and is very difficult because there are lots of people involved who all want different things, and they are building the station right now while we are trying to change the design. I’m right in the middle of it, so it takes a lot of patience!
I went out to buy a sandwich from M&S at around 1pm as it was a nice day and I fancied a bit of a walk. I came back and ate it at my desk while having a chat with my boss about progress on both my projects, so he knows what I’m planning and how things are going. We then both spent some time trying to find a new junior engineer to help us on one of the projects, as our current junior engineer went skiing a couple of weeks ago and broke his collarbone, and will be off work for the next six weeks. It is difficult to get new people to join our project as it has been going on for five years now, so there is a steep learning curve!
I then went back to the work I’d been doing in the morning, which involved going through calculations that had been done to prove the structure of the station worked five years ago. I had to look at this as if I want to make changes to the structure, I have to understand how it was meant to be working originally so I don’t change something by accident that causes it to all fall down. This was a nice quiet part of my day compared to the rest of it.
I was then interrupted (a pretty common occurrence) by one of our amazing CAD technicians, who prepare all our technical drawings for us. The technical drawings are the most important part of our work because it is the bit that tells people how to build what we have designed. She wanted to know if there were any more changes to a set of markups I had given her the previous week. (Markups are technical drawings that I handwrite on with pen, or ‘mark up’ on the computer to show the CAD technician where changes need to be made). There were a couple of final changes, so I added those to her drawings. When she is finished with the drawings later in the week, she will give me a set to check, and if I’m happy with them we will issue them to the construction site to be built! (This is the same construction site where they put a column in the wrong place this morning, so that probably won’t be the end of the story…)
I then started filling in this profile at the end of the day – again, not something I do every day, but I’ll carry on with it tomorrow as I am going to meet some friends for dinner, and I have to leave now that it is nearly 7pm!
What I'd do with the money
An Engineering Blog!
What I really had trouble with when I was at school was imagining what engineers actually did all day. I’ve realised that it would have really helped me to read a blog written by actual engineers. I would like to use the money to pay the fees for a completely independent blog that would talk about not only what I do, but I would get as many other engineers involved as possible, so you can read about their current projects and why they like being engineers! I think the £500 would get it off the ground, and help me look for longer term sponsorship from engineering companies looking to get more students into engineering.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Practical, creative, loud
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Work on Crossrail. I’ve learned so much, and ended up with some great stories to tell!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had already picked Civil Engineering as a degree course, but mostly because it kept my options open. It was only during my university course that I finally realised I did actually want to be an engineer!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yup, usually for my skirt being too short, or wearing chopsticks stuck through my hair. Don’t judge me, it was a thing back then!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A writer, or perhaps a ceramic artist.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Mumford & Sons
What's your favourite food?
Chocolate, but only the good stuff. Once you go Hotel Chocolat, you never go back…
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Ooh, this is hard one! I think I’m going to have to think about this one a bit more…
Tell us a joke.
To an optimist, a glass is half full. To a pessimist, a glass is half empty. To an Engineer, the glass is twice the size it needs to be.