Grace - Structural Project Engineer
This is Grace, one of our Structural Project Engineers. Grace originally joined Rolton Group in 2015 during the summer break of her first year at university. Impressed by Grace, Rolton Group offered her a sponsorship programme, funding her last two years of university whilst she worked during her summer and Christmas breaks. Now with us full time, Grace is an integral member of the structural team with a lot of responsibility and is also studying for her Master’s in Structural Engineering. We caught up with Grace to see what a typical day is like for a Structural Project Engineer at Rolton Group.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love it all, watching my projects turn from an architect’s perspective into a physical concept and knowing it was a team effort. I love doing my own design work and drafting work, yet also the delegation and working with our technicians as a team and having their input and knowledge applied.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Personally for me the most challenging aspect is not to take everything so personally; I care so much about my job that if I miss a deadline or have to let down a contractor it gets me down. However, I have learnt from this over the years and realise the communication and relationship you build with a contractor or architect is so important and they are understanding that things don’t always go smoothly.
What advice would you give anyone looking to become an engineer/get into the construction industry?
This job isn’t a 9-5 desk job all the time but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Some days I am travelling up to York for a site meeting to discuss the design following strip out of an existing building/structure and other days I may be sat in the office redesigning plans/drawings following the discussions at the meeting. My biggest bit of advice I would give to someone looking to enter the industry is don’t be afraid to ask what you may think is a silly question, everyone has to start somewhere and gain knowledge and experience.
What does your typical day consist of?
I usually arrive to work around 8.30am; my commute to work is around 45 minutes, so I like to leave with ample time in case the traffic is worse than usual. Arriving half an hour early allows me to open my emails and have a look if anything has developed overnight, or from the previous day that I didn’t have chance to answer.
The day will always begin with a tea round, so whoever is in first makes the teas! Once I’ve caught up on emails, I like to write a to-do list. I do this every day and write out all the projects I am working on and their actions required. This allows me to prioritise what I need to work on that day and check up on the technicians working with me, to see how they are getting on.
Once I’ve prioritised my work I can begin doing my design work. This will start off with looking at the fee proposal for the project; this is always a good indicator in finding out what our requirements are for this job, so I can make sure we meet the client’s expectations. Usually the fee proposal will need to be read in conjunction with the architect’s drawings to see what their proposed design has been. If I haven’t got the latest architect’s drawings I will usually need to send a reminder email for them to send over any changes they’ve made or ring them up and make sure I am working to their latest concept.
The phone usually starts ringing around now, contractors like to be kept up to speed on how our work is progressing and checking we are still on track to achieve our deadlines. Or something new may have popped up in the proposal, so they may be asking if we can incorporate these changes in our next issue of information.
Mid-morning is either spent in the office or at a design team meeting with the client, contractors and architects that will be external. This will usually go on for a couple of hours, however recently the meetings I have been going to have been a three hour drive away, so a meeting like this will take up most of my day and I won’t be able to make it back to the office. I don’t mind the long driving as I enjoy being out of the office.
If I am based in the office, by this time the designs are well underway; I could be designing the foundations for the new school that has had planning approved or value engineering the beam design on the new office block which I am working on, that has changed from tender design to construction design.
Lunch time! I’m usually starving by now so I take my hour lunch break half way through the day to break it up a bit more. We have a shopping complex a two minute drive from the office, so usually my lunch break involves some ‘window’ shopping. I also think it is really important to spend this time away from my desk and have that hour to recharge ready for the afternoon.
I return to my desk ready to carry on with the beams I am designing. If I am coming close to the end of a full design I will usually sit down with our Associate Director or Director and go over my proposals to see if they agree with them or if they can offer input in how I can improve on this.
I check to see how the technician is getting on with drafting work and if they have any queries on my design they would like to go over. We are fortunate some of the technicians we have working here have more years’ experience than I’ve been alive, so I really value any input and knowledge they have.
Whilst I am continuing on with designs from the morning for the next task, the technician will usually present me with their finished drafts ready for issue by the end of the day. I usually go over the drawings to check we’ve both been on the same wavelength in what is required and cast a second eye over it, which is a big responsibility as the structural designs agreed in these drawings will go on to shape the final construction of buildings which will stand for many years. Once they’ve received this back they will incorporate any minor changes and we can then have a Senior Engineer verify our drawings ready for issue.
I like to end the day trying to respond to any emails that have come in that I haven’t had chance to look over yet or starting to draft the design I’ve been working on that day, so that I can start briefing the technician assigned to draw it. This means they can come in the next day ready to start working and they aren’t waiting on me, because some days I may not be in the office next day to brief them.
Home time! I am lucky to be able to leave bang on 5pm most days although, if I am in the middle of a design, it is pointless to stop just because the clock says 5pm. I like to leave when I get to a point that I think is acceptable to take a break. Some days it could be later, if I’ve promised drawings to be issued by that day so I will stay later to ensure I keep that promise.