My name is Niri Arambepola and I am a structural engineer at WSP, a global professional services consultancy. My job relates to buildings: I use science to make sure that buildings will stand up, and that they can actually be built. Here are 5 things I enjoy about my job:
You’re producing something real
One of my favourite things about my job is that at the end of it all there is a physical product, be it a building, a bridge or even a sculpture (they need help standing up too!). I am currently working on a major development in London and I love the fact that I will be creating a piece of the city and contributing to London’s ever changing landscape. Although many of my projects are small, I feel a great sense of pride to see them and to know that real people are living and working in these buildings every day. One of the most exciting things I have experienced is seeing a beam or column I designed in real life for the first time.
It makes use of the stuff you learn at school
Having studied maths and physics for my A Levels, then having done an engineering degree and now working as a structural engineer, I can see direct continuity between the work at school and my job now. You finally find out the use for the things you learn in lessons- from graphs to differentiation, to statistics. Most days I do at least some calculations. I may not use my most complex maths and science every day, but it is that maths and science that allows me to understand concepts about how forces work and the properties of materials. This is what makes a building stand up.
You have to be creative
People do not often think of engineering as a creative profession, but actually we have to think creatively every day. Engineering is fundamentally about solving problems, and since every building is different you are often facing problems you have never seen before. For example a building I am currently working on is situated over a tube tunnel so we need to think of a clever way of putting the foundations away from the tunnel while making sure the building is stable. In these situations you need to use all your ingenuity to come up with a solution.
The work is varied
Engineering is not just about burying yourself in paper doing calculations. Nor is it just walking around in a hard hat. The reality is that it’s a bit of both and much more besides. In my job I do calculations, draw sketches, make analysis models on the computer, visit site, look a records of old buildings and attend meetings. I prefer the design side of the job (calculations and drawing), but I have friends who preferred the practical aspects, so they work as engineers on site, making sure buildings are being constructed correctly. There is something for everyone.
You work in a team
Think about a building: you have the structure, the plumbing, the electrics, the aesthetics, the interior design: there is no way one person could take care of this on their own. As a result I work as part of a design team with all the different people involved in designing a building, including architects, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers. This way I can make sure that my structure doesn’t ruin the layout of a room or get in the way of pipes, avoiding problems during construction. It is also a great way to learn more about the other aspects of building design. The best way to create a good building is to understand the needs of others and then work cohesively as a team.
Niri Arambepola is a Structural Engineer at WSP.