Phoebe Bointon works within Mott MacDonald’s Building and Infrastructure division. Her work is hugely varied - one day she may be working out on site and another day be in a design team meeting with clients and architects.
Phoebe had been exposed to the world of engineering from an early age, as her father is a mechanical engineer. She always knew she wanted to take her career down the engineering path. When she was at secondary school her family built a low-energy, low carbon home, which sparked her interest in sustainable building design and civil engineering. She researched the different engineering disciplines and then organised a few days work experience with various engineering firms to get a better idea of day-to-day work in the engineering industry.
Finally, she compared several university courses and decided on a four-year course at the University of Cambridge that specialised following a common first and second year across all major engineering disciplines.
“This appealed to me as it would allow me to make a more informed choice as to my chosen engineering discipline,” she explains.
Her route into a graduate position at Mott MacDonald was slightly unusual in that she has been involved with the company since before she started university.
“I applied for a QUEST scholarship through the Institute of Civil Engineers and through the QUEST scheme I was given the opportunity to work with a partner company (Mott MacDonald) during my university career,” she explains. “This meant that I had a foot in the door when it came to applying for graduate engineering positions. During my final summer as a vacation student I was offered a permanent position at Mott MacDonald and started as a graduate engineer in its Bristol office the following year.”
Phoebe’s current role is within the Building and Infrastructure division of Mott MacDonald, specialising in contaminated land and Environmental Impact Assessment. She has also recently qualified as a BREEAM assessor - BREEAM is a method to assess and guide the sustainability of new build developments, and spends a significant proportion of her time advising architects and design teams on sustainable building design.
“The varied nature of my job means that I am never working on the same project all of the time and am not always working from the office. In a typical week I might spend a day or two working on site (e.g. taking water quality samples on site, undertaking ecology surveys or doing site reconnaissance work). I might also spend a day sitting in a design team meeting within my BREEAM assessor role discussing a project with clients and architects. The remainder of the week I might be writing up reports or doing analysis in the office.”
Between 2010 and 2011 Phoebe was lucky enough to work on a project in Mongolia and this is one of her career highlights so far.
“Mott MacDonald was appointed as environmental and social technical consultants for a wide range of upgrades to the Mongolian education, transport and health systems and infrastructure,” she says.
“I spent around six weeks in Mongolia working as a hazardous waste and materials specialist, providing remediation advice for refurbishment of several schools and offices across the country. I led health and safety training workshops, undertook several site visits and supervised the remedial works for the removal of hazardous building materials such as lead based paints.
“A huge personal challenge of the project was communicating clearly with local Mongolian contractors, many of whom had little or no English. I had to introduce a number of concepts to the Mongolian workers, which are taken as standard practice in UK (such as PPE and risk assessments).”
Phoebe has found that working as a graduate can be very varied; you have to keep several "hats" on at the same time.
“As a relatively inexpensive technical resource, I often find myself playing several different roles on five or six completely different projects simultaneously, which can be quite confusing at times!
“I think the biggest surprise to engineering graduates when they enter the world of work is the stark contrast of day-to-day work in an engineering firm compared to the academic environment of university. I found the change from a highly theoretical learning environment to the more practical, time-constrained nature of industry quite hard to adjust to, as I was no longer being academically challenged to the limit of my ability every day,” she says.
“However, the work environment has its own challenges; for instance time management is critical, you need to consider the requirements and opinions of numerous project team members, and deadlines can’t be extended!”
In order to progress in the UK engineering industry, it is important to become registered as a Chartered Engineer with one of the engineering institutes. Phoebe believes this is a key benefit to choosing a graduate scheme.
“Working as a graduate within an engineering firm puts you on a firm path towards becoming a professionally qualified engineer, and being on a company graduate training scheme provides a structured environment in which to develop your knowledge and expertise,” she says.
And this is Phoebe’s current goal - she aims to become a Chartered Engineer in 2014. She also hopes to work abroad again in the near future to broaden her range of engineering experience. We wish her the best of luck.