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A day in the life of…
Graduate structural engineer at AECOM
Amy Forsyth studied a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and is a graduate structural engineer at AECOM.
Time to wake up! Although a recently converted Melburnian, I’m still a Brissy girl at heart and like to start my mornings relatively early compared with the rest of Melbourne (although not so much during winter).
As I gradually wake up on my morning tram commute into the city, I use the time to catch up on text messages, life administration and industry news through LinkedIn.
During a busy week I try to fit in a class at the gym before work because it leaves me feeling energised and pumped for the day and lets me enjoy my evening after work guilt-free. This morning I smash out a quick spin class, hit the showers and freshen up before heading into the office.
I’m usually one of the first in my team to arrive, which means I get to choose my favourite desk by the window. I make the most of the quiet office in the morning to sift through any new emails that have come through from my project team or clients overnight, check my calendar and plan my day ahead. I’m a big believer in lists, so I check anything that is outstanding from yesterday and make it my priority to resolve these matters before moving onto anything new.
My first meeting of the day is the fortnightly Connect Committee meeting. We are a group of early professionals who organise a range of development and networking events specifically targeted at those who are starting out their careers at AECOM. It provides young professionals with a really fun and supportive network both within the business and with others across the industry, while they find their feet in the corporate world. Today we are brainstorming ideas for our end of year celebration and welcoming our new graduates who will be starting with us next year!
Time for coffee! I head out of the office with a few people from my team for our daily dose of caffeine.
I need to focus, so I put on my headphones and get stuck into some project work. Recently, I’ve been doing the structural design for electrical substation upgrades around Victoria – including the design of steel structures and foundations – so I spend the morning punching out calculations, checking 3D models and preparing sketches. Although the structural design itself is relatively straightforward, I have little-to-no prior knowledge of power engineering, so I generally have a lot of questions for the electrical engineers!
Having been a new starter in both the Brisbane and Melbourne offices, I’ve really appreciated the consistently warm nature of graduates at AECOM, which is always obvious by the large, loud group of graduates in the kitchen at lunchtime. Everyone is made to feel welcome and there are always new faces joining the crew. It has become our unofficial tradition to collectively attempt the daily quiz from The Age and on the rare sunny, warm day in Melbourne, we sometimes venture across the road to sit in the park and soak up some rays.
Meeting number two! With the deadline approaching on my substation upgrade project, an interdisciplinary review of the designs needs to be undertaken, involving the structural engineers, civil engineers, electrical engineers and drafters. Collectively we review the entire drawing set and while the respective designer of each drawing explains its intent, representatives from the other disciplines comment, evaluate and challenge the ways in which these may interfere with or affect their own designs.
I always find multidisciplinary projects really interesting; understanding how different parts of the puzzle fit together. Even though each of our designs may be simple in isolation, when considering the interface of all of the affected disciplines – and the constraints of working in live brownfield sites – suddenly the project builds in complexity and becomes much more interesting! I’ve also learnt to account for other considerations beyond the structural theory taught at university, such as constructability and safety in design – both of which are extremely important when working on a live electrical site!
As this is now my second structural design of a substation, I’ve become quicker and more confident this time round. This has been recognised by the project team and I’ve been given more responsibility. Next week, I’ll be presenting the structural design intent to the client on site, which will be my first client presentation and first substation site visit! I’m a bit nervous, so I’m spending the rest of today running through the slides I’ve prepared with my supervisor. He gives me some constructive feedback about my presentation techniques and together we anticipate questions that the client may ask. I am challenged to develop a justification for my designs.
Before heading off to my final meeting for the day I jot down my to-do list for tomorrow, usually accompanied by a long list of questions that I need to find answers to.
Every month we have a group brief with the wider Civil Infrastructure team for a general business update, welcoming of new starters, sharing of exciting wins and client feedback, and then we hear a few presentations from people in the group. Today’s topics include an overview of a huge multidisciplinary infrastructure project that AECOM has recently won, the potential implications of the upcoming state elections on our business and projects and finally I am presenting on my recent trip to India for the Pollinate Energy Professional Fellowship through AECOM’s Blueprint Travel Grant. The two weeks I spent volunteering were a real highlight for me this year: being able to help deliver life-changing products to people living in poverty in India’s urban temporary slum communities, whilst learning about social businesses and making friends across the globe.
Our group brief is followed by drinks, pizza and cheese boards every second month, so tonight I have the opportunity to catch up with colleagues who are scattered across town, at one of the many large project offices.
Time to head home after a busy day. The best thing is that daylight savings has just started, which means I still have a couple of sunlight hours left to enjoy the evening!
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