Case study

Graduate civil engineer — Zeba Majeed

Working for a small-to-medium-sized consultancy, Zeba enjoys the opportunity to work on a range of projects. Find out how she hopes to develop her career

What degree did you study?

I studied BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University (Chelmsford) and graduated in 2019.

I started university as a 22-year-old British Pakistani mother of one. In my three years of study, for most of the time, I was the only female on the course. I commuted from Peterborough to Chelmsford three to four times a week for three years and had to manage my home life with studying. I graduated with a first class honours degree and received the ICE Student Prize for outstanding undergraduate work.

How did you get your job?

In the February of my third year at university, I set up a LinkedIn profile, which allowed me to advertise that I was job hunting. On the same day, I was approached via LinkedIn by the managing director of Stirling Maynard, a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy in Peterborough. He asked for my CV and by March I had been interviewed and offered a role in the company.

How relevant is your degree?

Very. My degree is in civil engineering and I have been able to get a job in this sector.

I was offered so many opportunities and was able to speak to my lecturers for advice on a range of issues such as the pros and cons of working for a large or smaller firm. I was then able to  make an informed decision based on my personal circumstances and the opportunities available.

What's a typical working day like?

As Stirling Maynard is an SME, my days can be very varied. Typical activities can include making structural calculations and drawing, as well as project administration activities such as attending meetings, writing reports, filling in paperwork and looking at quality management systems.

There is a lot of problem solving and using your engineering judgement as we receive a lot of diverse information from clients, local authorities and contractors, for example. I have to piece all this information together to ensure I can extract what I need.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of work I am involved in. I went into the role thinking I might be pigeon-holed into doing the same thing day-in day-out, but his hasn't been the case. Projects I have worked on so far include a kiln strengthening, retaining walls, temporary works, a waste management verification report for the Environment Agency and a bridge abutment design.

What are the challenges?

As a graduate engineer, the hardest part is not having enough experience, even though you will gain this as your career progresses. It's also difficult to accept that engineering is not an exact science and that we can't solve or fix everything.

It's also hard to accept that no matter how precise your design, the contractor has the last say and technically will do whatever they want on site to complete the project. As long as your work is thorough and correct, however, then at least it's one less thing to worry about.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I'd like to have chartered status and become a senior engineer. I would also like to have taken on some more responsibility on the management side of things.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Always ask questions even if you think they are 'silly'. This is the best way to learn.
  • Work hard and use all the resources around you to help you work more efficiently.
  • Stay organised and make sure you're able to tell a story with your work, so if someone picks up your calculations to check them, or if you want to revisit something, it's clear why you have adopted a certain methodology and where you got the information from.
  • Engineering can be stressful and is demanding, but self-management is key. One thing I make sure is that I have a healthy work-life balance.

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