Case study

Consulting civil engineer — Margarita Murillo Benitez

Margarita studied MEng Civil Engineering and Architecture at the University of Southampton. Find out how she got her job and what it involves

Why did you decide on this career?

I wanted to study something creative, but also enjoyed technical subjects such as maths. I was attracted to the variety of projects and how broad the subject was at university, as you could learn about water, geology, urban design and architecture at the same time.

How did you get your job at Ramboll?

I did a summer placement in my third year at university, which gave me a great opportunity to get experience and understand what the job involved. Then in my final year I applied through the graduate programme and attended a graduate assessment centre day.

What more should be done to increase female representation in engineering?

I think the most important thing is to explain what the job involves, especially to young people. Some people might think I work on a construction site and that might put some females off but I actually work in an office for 95% of the time. I think the main barrier is getting women to apply for engineering degrees at university, once in the industry I don't think there are many more barriers, especially as a consultant.

What's a typical day like as a consulting civil engineer?

A typical day involves doing some analysis work designing buildings, collaboration meetings with architects and other engineers (mechanical, drainage, etc) to ensure everything is considered in the design, putting ideas on paper by doing sketches and working with the technicians (who do the drawings), and working with the contractor on site to ensure that they are building to your design.

What qualities do you think are important for a consulting civil engineer?

I think being able to connect the dots, being aware what impacts different parts of the design might have on other elements/other parties of the design team.

Additionally, good communication skills, being able to distil very complex analytical information to others that don’t have the same technical background (clients/architects/site workers), so that they can understand why things are designed a certain way.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

Normally, being able to see the buildings during construction at real scale, after having done the design, but also realising how different things I design can impact and affect the whole design to make it better.

As a woman in engineering what challenges have you faced?

Personally, I have not faced any challenges at work. Sometimes going on a construction site you could feel more vulnerable, as there I am very noticeably the minority, but that hasn't affected me negatively. The only thing I have noticed is that when I tell new people that I am an engineer they always sound surprised.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I apply what I learned in the structure's modules everyday at work. A lot of the other modules, I don't use daily, but it is useful to have that knowledge to understand the whole project. For example, a specialist geotechnical engineer will do the ground engineering design - but having the knowledge from university modules helps me understand the design and be aware of the challenges.

How did you get involved with the Women's Engineering Society (WES) and how have they supported you?

I got involved in 2020, as other women promoted it in my office. Internally we have meetings and get updated with the events that are happening in WES. I have joined some of the webinars and helped to organise INWED2020 at Ramboll.

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to specialise in sustainability, as I believe it is the biggest challenge we are facing and there is a lot to be done in our industry.

What advice can you give to other aspiring females engineers?

If you think you will enjoy life as an engineer, get informed and ask what jobs involve. Never believe that it is something you will not be able to do, and don't let anyone else's thoughts put you off. I find it very helpful to have other female engineer role models, who inspire what I would like to become in the future.

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