• 18 April 2017

“Every day has been a steep learning curve for me, in all aspects of the job”

For 10 years after leaving school I was a professional rugby player for Leicester Tigers, Bedford Blues and London Scottish. When I decided to step away from this full-time (still playing semi-professionally with Blackheath in SE London), I chatted with friends in the construction industry who indicated I may be suited to structural engineering. It was then that a variety of ex-players and board members at the club put me in touch with Waterman, starting my new career as a structures graduate in December 2015.

My academic interests were always towards maths and design, I even made applications to study engineering at university before deciding to pursue a full-time sporting career. Throughout my time as a sportsman, I completed an engineering degree via distance learning and maintained my interest in property and construction.

Playing rugby professionally was never going to be a long-term career path, but I didn’t really know what to expect in a construction role – in hindsight I could have done more to prepare. Although this has helped in some ways as I have been able to take things as they come, that’s not to say it hasn’t been challenging as I’ve had my fair share of frustrations in getting to grips with the work.

Gregor Gillanders Content ImageThe main challenges for me had centred around the change in lifestyle; there is no getting away from the fact that the life of a sportsman is very different to that of an engineer. I have been very fortunate in the opportunities provided for me as a graduate, especially as my educational background is a bit less academic than others. However, my career and life experiences to date have given me, what I believe to be, a unique set of added attributes.

Every day has been a steep learning curve for me, in all aspects of the job. I have enjoyed learning about the way the industry works, the input that is required long before any final decisions are made (let alone before anything comes out of the ground), and then the complex development that continues as it does. Being relatively ‘raw’ in terms of exposure to engineering, I enjoy finding out about all the roles within the projects and the relationships between each of them; from the clients, architects and engineers to project managers.

One of my more rewarding moments at Waterman was after a client asked whether I would be comfortable taking the lead on one of their new proposals, which has been a massive confidence boost for me. It is highly satisfactory to see a scheme progressing through the client’s brief and design development, to currently being on-site. I enjoy the interaction with other members of the project team and hopefully they have a greater confidence and appreciation of the services we can provide as a company.

I take great pleasure in solving or providing solutions to problems (no matter how small) for our clients, design teams, or contractors. Their appreciation is where I gain my satisfaction and enjoyment.

My advice to those considering a career in engineering would be to find the sector you think you will enjoy, and then get out and experience everything you can to do with it. Nothing can compare to the real world, and the industry is so vast that there is something to suit everyone. Talk to people already working, listen and take any advice you can, because this will give you an idea of how and where you really want your career to go. Then do what you want to do; at the end of the day it is your life and your career.

Gregor Gillanders

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