• 17 June 2019

Forging a path in to engineering

My decision to pursue a career in engineering originated from my enjoyment of studying Science at school. I had a particular passion for Physics and, during my A-Levels, I found that the mechanics and materials modules appealed to me the most due to their real-life applications and use of applied mathematics. I decided upon civil engineering as a career as it compiled all the aspects of Physics that I enjoyed.

One of my Physics teachers at sixth-form was particularly influential in my decision. He was very passionate about the subject and had the ability to make the most complex of principles seem very simple; something which is extremely valuable when attempting to learn Physics at A-Level! In addition, my dad used to be a Mechanical Engineer and always encouraged me to consider a range of different careers. He is probably responsible for giving me a slight nudge towards engineering!

My path into engineering began in 2018 following my A-Level examinations when I had a very last-minute change of heart about what I wanted to do when I left school. After receiving five university offers, I decided that route wasn’t for me and began looking online where I came across the application for a civil engineering apprenticeship on Waterman’s website; I applied, was interviewed and got the job! I have now been with the company for nine months, working four days a week at our head office in London and spending one day a week studying for my Degree in Civil Engineering at London South Bank University.

Being an Apprentice, as well as someone who is completely new to the world of structural engineering and the construction industry in general, every task I am given is often something that I have never seen or attempted before. Having to learn the basics whilst completing the task to a high standard can be quite challenging and will often take longer than anticipated. Fortunately, I have a supportive team of engineers and technicians who are willing to give up their time to help me progress and develop confidence in my work.

The tasks I enjoy most in my day-to-day job include column load takedowns, beam testing and carbon reviews. One of my favourite pieces of work to date was when I designed a bike shed for Rotherhithe Primary School which comprised a steel frame covered by a polycarbonate roof. The roof was required to fit within a specified height and so I had to deduce what type of beam would be most appropriate, utilising 3D design software to model the roof and structural analysis software to assist with my calculations. I enjoyed being able to work through this task independently and feel a huge sense of achievement for being able to provide a design which satisfied the client’s requirements. Problem-solving such as this is what I feel that a career in engineering is all about.

My favourite building that I have worked on is the East Wick and Sweetwater Plot 5.4 on the Olympic Park, Stratford. As the project is of a smaller scale than others that my team has taken on, I have been able to play a larger role in its design. It was also the first structure that I created on the structural analysis software ‘Autodesk Robot’ which was one of my proudest moments in my career so far. I had never used this software before and felt a real sense of achievement when I was able to produce a design model quickly.

I began volunteering as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Ambassador in February 2019 with the aim of encouraging more young women into these careers and promoting alternative routes to university, such as the apprenticeship scheme we have here at Waterman. I know how intimidating it can be entering a predominantly-male industry, and I’d like to inspire women who might not be as confident to not let this deter them.

I think that the most significant misconception about the role of an Engineer is that you need to be ultra-intelligent to succeed. There is a large skill gap where not enough people are pursuing engineering professions and, notably, women make up only a small percentage of the people that do. It is a very broad profession which provides plenty of opportunities for people with a range of different skills and abilities. To women considering a career in engineering, I would encourage them to explore the variety of professions available as I myself didn’t even know what structural engineering was prior to applying for my position here at Waterman. I find being a woman in this industry can be advantageous due to initiatives like International Women in Engineering Day providing an opportunity for individuals to promote their abilities and achievements.

Georgia Lilley


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