On the job as Graduate Engineer at Laing O'Rourke

Anjhavi Sundararaju studied Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering with Honours at University of New South Wales and is now Graduate Engineer at Laing O’Rourke.
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What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?

My name is Anjhavi Sundararaju and I’m a Graduate Engineer at Laing O’Rourke. I graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering with Honours.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sydney and continued on with studying my degree at the University of New South Wales. I really enjoyed my degree and all the technical challenges, but also because I had opportunity to go on exchange to the University of Glasgow and volunteer in India.

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?

I have been working at Laing O’Rourke just under a year now and I applied for my position online.

How did you choose your specialisation?

During my last year of uni, I was tossing up between entering the consulting or construction industry. Having had prior work experience in the construction industry, I was interested in continuing my career down this path. I enjoyed the dynamic and challenging nature of the role, and seeing the drawings come to life. Laing O’Rourke also attracted me to the industry as they offered a 2-year rotational programme which would allow me to scope out what discipline within construction suited me best.

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?

Laing O’Rourke’s recruitment process involved 2 main stages; online assessments followed by a face-to-face interview. It was held at the Sydney Head Office and I was interviewed by a HR representative and a senior manager. The questions were largely around my university and work experiences and also how I saw my future career fitting in with the company. Despite initial nerves, it was a very relaxed and conversational environment; the senior manager even had a chance to show me the Wynyard Station Upgrade app on his phone. I had been through a number of interviews prior to this one, however the Laing O’Rourke one really made an impact on me!

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?

If you would like to enter the construction industry, there isn’t just the path of engineering and construction management; there many different roles available including finance, commercial, procurement and human resources. Definitely put your hand up for any work experience. Your degree is important, but more so is supplementing it with industry-related experience. This is very helpful to see if the industry is suited for you, but also to advance your communication and interpersonal skills which are essential for any industry.

What does your employer do?

Laing O’Rourke is a privately owned, internationally focused engineering enterprise and project delivery headquartered in the UK. We have two main hubs, Europe and Australia in which we run an integrated engineering and construction business model. The projects that Laing O’Rourke is involved with span across several sectors including transport, buildings, and oil & gas.

What are your areas of responsibility?

Due to the Graduate Development Programme, my areas of responsibility change with each rotation. My first position was within the Planning and Project Controls team on the Pacific Highway Upgrade Project in Ballina. My team was responsible for monitoring and reporting on the progress of project and I was responsible for assisting the team with the preparation of on-boarding the major earthworks and bridges packages. This involved creating reporting templates and dashboards to record progress, updating programs, creating digital engineering visualisations of the project with traffic staging and more.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

Being open-minded and adaptable are key skills to succeed in the construction industry. It is a dynamic environment and as clichéd as it sounds you need to be ready to expect the unexpected on the job. Whilst it can be challenging and quite demanding, the people I have worked with have often said that it has been a very rewarding field to work in.  

What are the career prospects with your job?

From the graduate programme, I believe I will have various career prospects available to me depending on the function that I choose to pursue my career in. I see myself becoming a site engineer or a digital engineer beyond the Graduate Development Programme.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

For my role, you will need some sort of engineering or construction management background mainly because you will be interpreting drawings and facing technical terms. In saying that, a construction project requires many different disciplines to work including commercial, finance and procurement. I think it is very important for a project team to be diverse to enable different thinking.

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy the rotational aspect of Laing O’Rourke’s Graduate Development Programme. It allows me to be exposed to the different types of projects like rail, buildings and roads. So far, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the delivery of a roads project and a bid stage of a building in one year alone.

My favourite task by far was developing the 4D model of the Pacific Highway Upgrade to include traffic staging for a section of the highway. The construction programme was set-up against the model to enable a 3D time lapse of the project, and I advanced the model to highlight the different traffic switches throughout the project. This was a very useful tool to communicate to key stakeholders.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

The biggest limitation of my current role is that I often do not see the completion of a project from start to finish. However, this is a small price to pay to have the opportunity to be involved in several projects within just 2 years!

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  • Put yourself outside of your comfort zone and expose yourself to different experiences, whether that will be with work, travel or uni.
  • Go to career fairs and workshops. Whilst you probably won’t get a job off the bat, it’s a great way to learn about what is happening in the industry, which companies you could work for and what their company culture is like.
  • Travel, travel and travel. Do this while you have the chance!