Case study

Assistant engineer — William Whyte

Solving infrastructure problems gives William a great sense of satisfaction in his job as an assistant engineer

How did you get your job?

I am an assistant engineer, based in the bridges team within the rail infrastructure sector. I studied BEng Civil Engineering at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2015. I undertook a placement year with Arcadis as part of my university course. I was offered a graduate role in Warrington after graduation.

How relevant is your civil engineering degree to your job?

I draw from the knowledge provided by my degree daily, be it structural calculations, understanding surveying techniques, producing drawings, managing health and safety or project programming. I even use my research skills and approach to the organisation of documents that I developed during university.

What are your main work activities?

My day usually involves a combination of developing designs for infrastructure by producing sketches, writing reports, doing calculations and pouring over standards or historical records. The large scale and complexity of the multidisciplinary projects I have worked on means a big part my day involves cooperating with various other teams around the UK and globally to ensure my designs will work with what they are proposing.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The sense of achievement that comes from problem solving on a daily basis. So far in my career this has ranged from developing an arrangement for a new 1.6km viaduct, right down to small brickwork repairs on retaining walls. Infrastructure isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ industry, so schemes need to have all angles carefully examined to find a suitable tailored solution to the problem.

What are the most challenging parts?

Having graduated only two years ago I'm still very early in my career. At times it can be hard to understand the language or terminology used by other teams when liaising with them.

What advice can you give to others wanting to be a design engineer?

Don't be afraid of the learning curve ahead of you. Stepping into the office, I felt a bit lost being so inexperienced. However not even the most senior engineer in this industry knows it all, everyone is continually developing.

Try to get some work experience. Whether it's a summer placement, a year in industry or just a week in an office observing everything around you.

If you feel like a change, go for it. An engineering degree opens the door to a huge range of types of jobs and I know a number of people who have completely changed their role over the years. Remember that your career is steered by you and you can decide to change it.

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