Helen Phillips became one of our scholars in 2012 and has recently joined the world of work. Here she writes about the start of her civil engineering career and offers some good advice.
Having graduated from Bristol University with a 2.1 Masters degree in civil engineering, I’ve now joined structural engineering firm Form SD.
My work came about through two work experience placements I had undertaken with Form SD, during the previous two summers, when I had been allowed to really get stuck into projects. This gave me a lot of valuable knowledge in a short space of time, and it also meant I knew most of the team and the structure of the company before I started work.
The company’s projects range from small basement refurbishments to large scale new builds, and although I’ve not been here very long I’m already involved in a variety of schemes. This is interesting because different sized projects require very different skills and knowledge. It means I’m gaining huge amounts of experience and already feeling like a true engineer!
I’ve also been on site visits, which for me is a great part of the job. Seeing designs on paper being transformed into reality is an amazing prospect.
I work as part of a team which is assigned its own projects. Much of the work I’m given is challenging as I’m having to solve problems I’ve not previously encountered. However talking to different team members and carrying out research is helping me develop my skills as an engineer. We also share ideas and knowledge between teams, which is essential for a successful project.
My advice for anyone looking for their first job in engineering is to ensure your CV is up to date and ask someone else to check it, for instance a family member or a tutor at university. They will be able to spot mistakes or make suggestions you might not have thought of yourself.
Once you’ve got the job make sure you ask questions. I have found that the way to learn at work is to communicate with others and listen to their advice. You’ll be working with experienced engineers so make the most of their knowledge!
During the short time I’ve been at Form SD I’ve started a diary of all my projects. At the end of each day I spend about 10 minutes summarising what I’ve worked on, the problems I faced and how I overcame them (with specific details if necessary). For instance, I recently outlined how to test a column for punching shear. I also collect any helpful documents which I think could aid my designs later on. In doing this I am able to refer back to certain design processes and see how they were best tackled; if a future project raises similar issues this record will be available to help.
Having spent the last few years studying I’m really enjoying putting my knowledge to good use.
Read about the start of Helen’s journey into engineering here.