Case study

Geotechnical engineer — Gemma

Enthusiasm, perseverance and regular contact with recruitment agencies landed Gemma the perfect geotechnical engineering role

How did you get your job?

I was in contact with a number of recruitment agencies who informed me of the available position at Structural Soils Limited for a Geotechnical Engineer.

At the time I was a graduate geotechnical engineer. I searched for positions on a daily basis and applied for all that were suitable, regardless of location as I always expected to relocate (within reason).

I love being able to project manage large-scale jobs…the logistics of it all are challenging and I really enjoy that

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My qualifications were ideally suited to the position being advertised, I use both my geology and geotechnical engineering skills on a day-to-day basis.

What are your main work activities?

I am fortunate to be in a role where I am involved in the site investigation work from the start, so it is very varied.

A client will come to us with requirements for a development or improvement works, which we will price for on a tender.

Once we win a job we then assess the requirements and potential issues relating to it. For example, traffic management, site restrictions (such as not suitable for large vehicles), geology (to determine technique to be used) and many other potential restrictions.

Once all the factors have been assessed, I prepare drilling instructions, arrange a start date and obtain the necessary service drawings. The client will typically meet us onsite to advise which areas are to be targeted and as the onsite engineer I will carry out point-of-work risk assessments at each location if required.

Once the job is complete I am then able to spend time in the office organising laboratory testing, both geotechnical and contamination. Upon receiving the results of the tests, I produce a report, either factual or interpretative, and ultimately invoice the works.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Since starting in April 2013, I have been promoted to geotechnical engineer from graduate geotechnical engineer as a result of my ability to take on large projects and manage them both profitably and efficiently.

The next step for me would be to progress to the position of team leader, which would involve more time in the office setting up jobs for others.

However, I currently really enjoy being onsite so am happy in my existing role for now.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love being able to project manage large-scale jobs where we have a number of drilling rigs and activities onsite. The logistics of it all are challenging and I really enjoy that. I am able to see the job through from start to finish and see rewards of the hard work put in.

I get to meet so many different people from a range of disciplines such as archaeologists, GPS/GPR surveying, UXO clearance technicians etc, but at the same time frequently work with people I have worked with in the past. We have a great client base at Structural Soils and we work with some of the best in the UK.

What are the most challenging parts?

We drive large vehicles, which can become difficult when on narrow tracks and are far more difficult to turn round when you get lost.

The weather at the moment has been pretty fierce and on rare occasions time constraints can make things quite difficult onsite, but its great when it all pulls together and as the project manager it's your job to keep morale high onsite.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

If you're enthusiastic about what you do you shouldn't have any problems finding the right role for you. It's scary and difficult when you first come out of university but persevere and you will get the rewards you're looking for.

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