What Inspires You To Be A Civil Engineer?
About the Author
A while ago I joked about how the previous NCE Graduate of the Year award winners were all people who seemingly draw structures from the earth using their bare hands, while simultaneously bringing peace and competent infrastructure to the third world- well Claire is who I was talking about! – Ed.
This is something that I get asked on a regular basis – a question that sings from the lips of everyone I meet beyond the sphere of the construction sector! And however clichéd it may sound, my response is always the same – to make a difference!
Ask yourself, what made you become an engineer and do your actions reflect that?
Despite being only in my mid-twenties, I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that it already seems a lifetime ago that I made the decision to read engineering at University. So with pressure mounting on our young professionals to secure and retain jobs, leading to a cultural shift of looking good on paper, is it any surprise that some engineers lose sight of what attracted them to the industry in the first place?
Well, deep down I don’t think you ever forget why you wanted to become an engineer or who your role model was but I wasn’t willing to take the risk! So before I left university – before I got wrapped up in the real world – I made a promise to myself that I would keep my reasoning at the fore of my actions. And so far, it’s actually been easier than I thought!
Since co-founding the engineering charity, Cameroon Catalyst, in 2009, I’ve had the opportunity to work with like-minded, enthusiastic engineering students each year to provide improved medical, educational and microbusiness facilities in an effort to help villages in North East Cameroon on the road to self-sufficiency.
Some might argue that this is a little beyond the day job, but really all of my tangible skills developed at University and every aspect of my role at WSP are applied to my leadership position at Cameroon Catalyst!
For example, many of the thought processes that we follow on a daily basis as engineers are needed for all projects despite size, location or end use; understanding the needs of the end user, developing the clients brief, building health and safety considerations into the design, accommodating construction techniques and construction programme, considering sourcing of materials, co-ordinating with other co-professionals etc.
One area where there is a distinct overlap is communication, and this is ever apparent when we stumble across new ideas – I remember how we (Cameroon Catalyst and local villagers) once resorted to drawing pictures in the red Cameroonian sand before we realised that we hadn’t misheard the village chief – the local well digger really can dig a well up to 20m deep by hand!
Now, working closely with the ICE and having signed up as a STEMnet ambassador I get to talk to the next generation of potential engineers about all of these opportunities and hopefully inspire them to become part of the construction industry too.
So whether it is about improving the quality of life for those less fortunate, promoting best practice across the industry or changing perceptions within wider society, ask yourself, what made you become an engineer and do your actions reflect that?
Ed.: This year Cameroon Catalyst are working to provide a solar panel/diesel generator for the new medical centre they built in 2010. I asked Claire to provide me with a link to the donation page, so that any readers who want to, can help them reach their fundraising goal: