Laura Smith

Graduate Engineer, Mouchel

Job Graduate Engineer
Company Mouchel
Education MEng Civil Engineering, Queen's University Belfast (2008)

I had intended to study law or medicine at university but a friend’s mother suggested I consider civil engineering instead. I did a couple of days' work experience with a local firm where I got to sit in on discussions, meet an architect and visit a construction site and I loved it. I realised I could use my problem-solving skills in an environment that didn't involve ill people!

There are lots of ways to specialise in civil engineering and I found doing a summer work experience placement during university helped me make up my mind. During the placement, I worked on a 'structural' project and realised this didn't suit me at all. Instead, I became much more interested in how water was controlled and floods prevented on projects. When I returned to university I took every water-related module I could to improve my chances of getting a job in that area.

I found the initial application form the trickiest part of applying for my job – it's hard to get your personality across in just a few words! The most important thing is to convey enthusiasm for the work. I found the interview easy in comparison: I felt that the interviewers and I clicked. I knew I'd be happy working for the company – you can tell a lot about an employer from the interview so trust your gut instinct.

A recent project was the A5 Western Transport Corridor, which is the longest single roads project ever undertaken in Northern Ireland. I specialised in drainage and flood prevention, along with three senior managers, three technicians and two other graduates. I was highly involved in the design aspects of the project, while managing technicians. I ensured that all work was completed to deadline and kept everyone updated on progress.

I love the leadership and communication aspects of my role. As part of the Mouchel Academy for potential future leaders, I am trained in areas such as report writing and commercial awareness. In fact, I'm off to Glasgow next week to attend a project management course.

Job-hunting tips

Try to choose a career that you’ll enjoy. Get some work experience in the sectors or with the employers you're considering as it's the best way to find out whether your career choice is right for you.