Please introduce yourself, give your job title and explain in a few sentences what you do?
My name is Natalie Davey and I am a Chartered Civil Engineer. On this project I work as the temporary works designer for the joint venture contractor. I design and check the temporary works required to carry out the permanent construction. This could be anything from the hoarding around site to the 209m long excavation support system for launch of the tunnel boring machine and insertion of the pipe. My main objective is to ensure that the designs for temporary works are as safe as they can be, so that the workers can carry out the construction with fewer risks.
What industry do you work for and how long have you been in it?
I started my career in civil engineering in 2011 after graduating with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering. As a graduate I worked for two years as a site engineer on the Crossrail Bond Street enabling works and station contract, and since then have worked in temporary works design supporting a number of different projects in a range of sectors related to national infrastructure: energy, water, rail and road.
What attracted you to your industry and what do you envisage it will look like in a decade?
What attracted me to civil engineering is still what inspires me about it today. I love that civil engineering is everywhere. It can be as bold as a national symbol recognised around the world, like the Eiffel Tower, or it can be hidden from view in providing the daily essentials we often take for granted: running water, flushing loos, energy at the press of a button to power all the things in our daily lives. It’s as ancient and straightforward as the Pyramids of Giza, and as modern and technically challenging as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau crossing. I love working in an industry where you can make a tangible difference to the world. I think that over the next decade there will be ever more focus on constructing with sustainability in mind, particularly through the efficient use of natural and man-made resources.
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
Every day is different, and each new design or check requires different technical knowledge and skills.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The fact that every day is different, and each new design or check requires different technical knowledge and skills is what makes it so interesting!
What would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?
Civil engineering projects require people with different technical capabilities; civil engineers, structural engineers, geologists, material scientists and specialists, chemical and process engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers and the list goes on! If you enjoy problem solving, maths and physics, civil engineering is for you. There are so many different roles aside from engineers too. The best advice I could give is to get as much work experience as you can in different projects and locations to see if this is an industry you’d like to work in and which role you’d like to aim for. Once you’re on track for the role you’re interested in, keep getting that experience. I did a placement for 8 months before I went to University, and then came back each summer during my degree. It confirmed to me that this was the field I wanted to work in, and helped me to quickly get up to speed when I started work as a graduate.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’d still like to be working on the UK’s infrastructure in some way. In ten years’ time I hope to be working on phase 2b of High Speed 2!
What qualities make someone stand out in your industry?
Great communication skills make a huge difference in this industry. Every role I can think of has to be able to work as part of a team to plan and deliver the work. The more effectively those teams listen to one another and communicate information to each other, the more successfully they will perform.
Do you need a university degree to do well?
There are so many different types of roles in this industry so it does depend on the role you would like to pursue. In some roles it isn’t important at all, particularly if you are interested in obtaining a trade, as long as you obtain a good apprenticeship or can secure high quality training and mentorship with experienced people. If you are interested in being an engineer there are numerous ways into the industry. The most straightforward way to success, particularly if you want to become chartered, is to obtain an Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) accredited degree, but there are now degree level apprenticeships available that will allow you to gain experience while you work towards a degree. The ICE website is a good place to start to look for help on getting into civil engineering.