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She’s an Engineer

Nikki Smith

Regional Engineering Manager, temporary works

Nikki Smith photo

What made you choose engineering as a career?

My physics lessons at North School for Girls started my interest in engineering. In my final year at school I read about a construction course while looking in the careers advice area. This started
my interest in the industry.

What education / training did you undertake to enter your role?

I studied a BTEC in Construction at Canterbury College from 1988 – 1991. I then went to University of Greenwich to study for a Degree in Civil Engineering between 1991-1994.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

My career has been in temporary works, and my role manages the temporary works designs carried out throughout my region. My day can involve doing calculations as part of a design, checking my colleagues designs, problem solving for awkward excavations in bad ground or propping a structure while walls or floors are removed, to name just a few tasks!

What are the best and worse things about your job?

I love problem solving, so I enjoy working on awkward enquires and providing a suitable and also cost effective solution for our clients.

The worse thing is being overworked often. There is generally a lack of civil engineers nationally, so finding and retaining good engineers is much more of struggle now, compared to when my career started 28 years ago.

What is your proudest work or career achievement so far?

Boston Flood Defence Coffer Dam

There have probably been quite a few over the years, but one that comes to mind is the Boston Flood Defence Barrier. I designed a frame to support a cofferdam, constructed within the estuary at Boston, Lincs. The frame was around 30m x 30m, and had unbalanced loading due to changing water levels. The construction of the barrier was documented on Lincolnshire BBC News, so it was great to see my work on this.

Amy Pledge HNC EngTech MICE

Civil Engineering Technician

What is your job?

I am a Civil Engineering Technician working for Considine Limited, a Civil & Structural Engineering and Transport Planning Consultancy. My role is to lead the production of Flood Risk Assessments (FRA), Drainage Strategies and modelling calculations and assist with
AutoCAD drawings. I work with other Engineers on design schemes including commercial, residential and public infrastructure.

What made you choose engineering as a career?

I started working for my previous company as a receptionist/assistant administrator. Part of this role meant that I would perform admin checks on documents such as Flood Risk Assessments before they were issued to the clients. I started assisting the engineers by pulling together the FRAs for them and found I really enjoyed the work. When a position as a Trainee Technician became available, I applied alongside others, many of whom were more qualified for the job role than I was. I was successful and was offered the job role of Trainee
Technician in the Civil Engineering team.

What education/training did you undertake to enter your role?

When I started the role as Trainee Technician, I didn’t have any qualifications in Civil Engineering, I had my GCSE’s from when I left school. I discussed courses with my employer and signed up for the HNC in Construction course with the University of Kent. I completed
this course over a period of two years, attending college one day a week whilst working the other four.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Each day is different for me as I work on various different projects within the South East. I communicate with colleagues, clients and companies on a daily basis regarding the projects I am working on. I could be undertaking a desk-top study of a site and proposed
development, visiting site to understand the general environment or undertaking calculations and hydraulic modelling for the existing and proposed site to ensure there will be no increased risk to existing and proposed properties. All of which results in preparing reports and drawings that can be submitted to support a development.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

The best thing about my job is that every day is different, and I get the opportunity to work on a variety of local projects. It is also a great career if you like problem solving and there are many different job roles within engineering.

What is your proudest work or career achievement so far?

I have achieved many things in my 5-year career so far and find it difficult to choose one that I am most proud of. I am proud of myself for completing my HNC with a distinction, being promoted to Technician, being awarded the QUEST Technician Scholarship with the
Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), finally having the chance to celebrate my qualification by attending my graduation 2 years after graduating, and most recently passing my professional review with the Institution of Civil Engineers and becoming professionally qualified as an engineering technician and being able to use the post-nominals ‘EngTech MICE’, which is a globally recognised qualification.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

I would advise my 15-year-old self to do what you enjoy and what makes you happy, and also to research the many career paths and industries on offer and to not be afraid of not knowing what you want to do in life as a career. It took me while before finding a career that
I enjoy and thankfully I have now found that. My other passion is Genealogy which I have discovered by researching my ancestors (H.S Pledge & Sons). I wish I had chosen subjects I excelled at in school such as history, when choosing my GCSE’s to enable me to discover this passion and develop it further.

Jordanna Mills

Senior Technical Officer

What is your job?

I have just completed an Advanced Level 3 Rail Engineering Technician Apprenticeship with Network Rail and have secured a position as a Senior Technical Officer working within the discipline of track-based maintenance. This involves working closely with Senior Engineers to support the permeant way function, by monitoring track geometry, rail defects, structure clearances and tolerances, as well as surveying, designing and implementing schemes to improve the quality of the track in order to provide Kent with a safe, efficient and reliable railway.

What made you choose engineering as a career?

The Engineering industry was always one of my key interests whilst at school. I loved designing, making, and understanding the working principals behind different objects, and this was fuelled by my passions for, maths, physics and product design. However, I had never thought about the railway until I was researching engineering apprenticeships. Before I discovered the railway, I thought I wanted to either go into civil or aeronautical/aerospace engineering.

What education / training did you undertake to enter your role?

I joined Network Rail under their level 3 advanced engineering scheme, which is a 3 year long course which aims to provide you with competent knowledge and training to be able to work at a certified Engineering Technician level. The entry requirements for this scheme are GCSEs in English Language and Science at Grades 9 – 4, Maths at Grade 9 – 5, and one other subject at Grades 9 – 4. Or you’ll hold an NVQ or BTEC Level 2 or above in an Engineering subject or equivalents.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

A typical day at work for me begins at 22:00 hours in the office where I review any new track geometry data and reply to any emails from the employees that work the day shift. I will then prepare any work that needs to be undertaken that night, and this could range from basic track inspections, surveying, or leading and working with large on track machines. Once we are granted safe access to the track (usually around 1 am after the last train service) I will begin the work which needs to be completed. A lot of our work is safety critical and has to be completed by certain timeframes and deadlines in order for us to give permission and authority that the track is safe to run trains on. Once I am back in the office, I will review the data collected and mitigate any risks that may have arisen.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

When working on projects which aim to improve the infrastructure, it is really rewarding to be a part of the process from beginning to end. As a Senior Technical Officer, I am involved in each stage of all the projects we undertake, from the planning to the designing and the implementation of the project. This means that when a project comes together and is completed, I get to see the outcome of what usually is months of hard work, and I know that we have all worked collaboratively to improve the safety of the railway.

The worst thing about my job would be getting used to working the shifts! Unsociable hours are often required, including nights, weekend and bank holidays, however eventually I became used to these and there are other benefits that you can get by working these hours. This includes enhanced rates of pay as well as days off in lieu.

What is your proudest work or career achievement so far?

The proudest moment of my career would be featuring in the Daily Mirror, along with other publications and media events to promote women in engineering as well as encourage more young people to pursue other routes of education such as apprenticeships. By talking about my experience as an apprentice and providing information on the engineering sector I aim to be an inspiration to others that you an do anything you put your mind to!

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

I would say that opportunities come to those who search for them. You can’t wait for things to happen and expect to achieve your goals if you aren’t proactively looking for opportunities. If you are proactive and engage with the industry/individuals you are interested in learning more about- opportunities will land at your feet. Just be sure to go for them and put yourself out there!

Alice McCutcheon

User Experience Designer

What is your job?

Alice McCutcheon graduation

I am a User Experience Designer- we design products, apps, services and interactions to make sure every touchpoint the customer has with our brands are as enjoyable and usable as possible. It is a mix of Product Design, Technology, Engineering and Psychology and we always try to have a user-centred design approach to make sure what we’re designing is meeting the user needs and making their lives easier.

What made you choose your career?

I always felt Product Design was the best way I could make a difference in the world. Designing products and services which can improve the quality of life of someone is so rewarding. From designing medical products to consumer goods, we make sure everything we do is positively impacting someone’s life. I also love being creative and thinking outside the box to create practical solutions really appealed to me.

What education / training did you undertake to enter your role?

I studied Product Design, Business Studies, French and Spanish at A Level at Highworth and then went on to study Industrial Design & Technology at Loughborough University. It was a 3 year degree with an additional placement year where I got to work in the UK, Italy and Germany for a large company and two design studios. This allowed me to skill up and be ready to enter the world of work.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

A typical day starts with a team meeting to align our work priorities and make sure everyone has the support or resources they need for their project. I would then collaborate with UX Researchers, Product Managers and Software engineers at different stages of the project. I typically use Figma (design software) to create some initial designs, and then I might do a peer review session to get other designer’s opinions before refining my design and creating a prototype for users to interact with and test. Once designs are complete I would have a meeting with an engineer to discuss the smaller details and design specification.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

'Corti', Cortisol Patch Pump for witch Alice received the New Designer Breakthrough Design Award

The best thing about my job is seeing users genuinely enjoy using something I have designed. Whilst testing designs, we always look to get user feedback to make improvements. It is very rewarding when they say it is just what they needed or that it’s going to drastically change their lives.

The worst thing is I often have to multi-task and deliver projects with a short time-frame. I work for a very fast-paced tech company so we have to be efficient and finish tasks fairly quickly. This does however mean you can see your designs go live in a matter of weeks!

What is your proudest work or career achievement so far?

Alice with other winners of New Designer Awards

My proudest achievement was winning the New Designers Breakthrough Design Award 2021. I was in my final year of university and designed a medical device to improve the quality of life of people with a rare illness called Addison’s disease. Not only was it a company that I had always looked up to that awarded me the prize, but I received such positive feedback from users themselves that I really felt like I had designed something that could change someone’s life. 

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

I would say that opportunities come to those who search for them. You can’t wait for things to happen and expect to achieve your goals if you aren’t proactively looking for opportunities. If you are proactive and engage with the industry/individuals you are interested in learning more about- opportunities will land at your feet. Just be sure to go for them and put yourself out there!

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