A Day in the Life of an Engineer

To mark International Women in Engineering Day, stories from structural and geotechnical engineers at Rolton Group

Creating a more diverse industry is what International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is all about.

INWED is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women who are driving the industry forward and draw attention to the career opportunities available to girls in the industry. It’s also a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusivity and the benefits it can bring. Teams in which engineers have different experiences and backgrounds to draw upon benefit from a cross-pollination of knowledge and ultimately, better working relationships and more innovative project designs.

For INWED, Chloe, Grace, and Victoria, all engineers at Rolton Group, share what a typical day in the life of an engineer is like.

What do you enjoy most about your role?Chloe - International Women in Engineering Day

Chloe: As a Geotechnical Project Engineer I have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects ” some sites can be very similar but never 100 per cent the same. As part of completing a desk study for a site, I look through historic maps and learn about the previous uses of the land, which could be as simple as being agricultural farmland or something a bit different like an old RAF base used during WWII or a government testing facility. When designing the ground investigations, certain areas will be targeted based on the historical use, so you might dig up buried building foundations or the footprint of a historic runway, which is really interesting.

Grace: I love it everything about being a Structural Project Engineer, watching my projects turn from an architect’s perspective into a physical concept and knowing it was a team effort. I love doing my own design work and drafting work, yet also the delegation and working with our technicians as a team and having their input and knowledge applied.

Victoria: The variation in our projects/sites and the mixture of site and office work (getting outside in the sunshine!) is what I enjoy most about being a Senior Geotechnical Engineer.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

Victoria: Having lots of projects on at any one time can mean a lot of organisation is needed to keep everything and everyone on track. Additionally, waiting for the projects to be signed off by the local authority or environment agency can be very stressful.Grace - International Women in Engineering Day

Chloe: During winter the weather can be very wet and very cold, so it’s always important to wear plenty of layers to keep warm and invest in a good set of waterproofs; some sites are just open fields with no facilities and nowhere to dry out or warm up. I’d recommend spending some time outside, going for long walks so you get used to being on your feet all day and finding good warm layers that work for you.

Grace: For me the most challenging aspect is not to take everything so personally; I care so much about my job that if I miss a deadline or have to let down a contractor it gets me down. I have learnt from this over the years and realise the communication and relationship you build with a contractor or architect is so important and they are understanding that things don’t always go smoothly.

What advice would you give anyone looking to become an engineer/get into the construction industry?

Chloe: If you are considering becoming a geotechnical or geo-environmental engineer, I’d recommend doing lots of research, having a science background, spend time outdoors and seek out as many opportunities as possible.

Grace: This job isn’t a 9-5 desk job all the time but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. My biggest bit of advice I would give to someone looking to enter the industry is don’t be afraid to ask what you may think is a silly question, everyone has to start somewhere and gain knowledge and experience.Victoria - International Women in Engineering Day

Victoria: Explore the different areas of engineering (there are so many) by applying for work experience and placements, ask lots of questions!

What does your typical day consist of?

Chloe: It’s quite tricky to describe a typical day because the geo team undertake a huge range of geotechnical and geo-environmental work which all have a range of tasks to complete. Typically, our clients require us to produce Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports, with a few extra tasks included in-between.

A Phase 1 report generally consists of an assessment of the data you can acquire without completing any intrusive ground investigations e.g. historic maps, aerial photographs and Google Earth. Whilst a Phase 2 report includes all of the above as well as the results of intrusive ground investigations.

Victoria: My day starts with a site briefing to ensure that everyone knows what the aims for the day are, then our client may have some questions about the proposed foundation design so I join a site meeting to discuss it with them. I then return back to the office and work through my tasks for the day, this could include updating the fieldwork schedule for any new projects that have come in, setting up meetings with clients or regulators, or reviewing data, reports and drawings.

Later in the afternoon I will head out again to undertake a site inspection before heading back to the office to catch up with our geo engineers to ensure that any reports are underway or that fieldwork for the week is arranged.

Grace: My day begins with design work. This will start off with looking at the fee proposal for the project; this is always a good indicator in finding out what our requirements are for this job, so I can make sure we meet the client’s expectations. Usually the fee proposal will need to be read in conjunction with the architect’s drawings to see what their proposed design has been.

Mid-morning is either spent in the office or at a design team meeting with the client, contractors and architects that will be external. After lunch I return to my desk ready to carry on with design and if I am coming close to the end of a full design I will usually sit down with our Associate Director or Director and go over my proposals.

Whilst I am continuing on with designs from the morning for the next task, the technician will usually present me with their finished drafts ready for issue by the end of the day. I usually go over the drawings to check we’ve both been on the same wavelength in what is required and cast a second eye over it, which is a big responsibility as the structural designs agreed in these drawings will go on to shape the final construction of buildings which will stand for many years.

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