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Almost a year in the life: opportunities inside and outside of Mott MacDonald Chris Ellery

I have been at Mott MacDonald for almost ten months now and looking back I have worked on so many different things. I work in the water consultancy team and after a few months of being based in the Cambridge office, I was offered a secondment working for a contractor but based in a water company office. It basically means I have a lot of different coloured lanyards!

I really enjoy being part of engineering outreach and Mott MacDonald have let me pursue that interest.

My role is as a design engineer and I work on water mains renewal projects in the south of England. The client (i.e. the water company) chooses which water mains they want to be renewed and the design team prepares all the construction information which includes things such as drawings, trial holes and risk registers. I have really enjoyed it as I have been given a real level of responsibility and get to manage my own project. I think that’s why I would recommend secondments, they have their downsides (in my case a lot of commuting) but with the additional responsibility and being much closer to construction I think you develop much quicker. Mott MacDonald seems to offer a lot of opportunities for secondments, particularly because of the Mott MacDonald Bentley joint venture, and this can be so valuable... especially for chartership.

Despite being seconded I have managed to maintain a presence in the Cambridge office. Today was the last day of the engineering outreach course I have been running with a local school that is taking a rather different approach to education. They are a nonfee paying school but have no catchment area and they focus specifically on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The school runs these challenge projects for their GCSE students where for one day a week the students don’t memorise facts for their exams, and instead a company comes in to teach them something from the curriculum. Mott MacDonald runs an eight-week course relating to the design of a hydropower scheme in Georgia, this course is based around a real Mott MacDonald project.

Running the course has been so much fun, but exhausting! The lessons run from 09:30 – 16:30, but usually by 15:00 I am too tired to construct understandable sentences. I do not know how the teachers do it every day. I have managed this year of the course from start to finish which has included creating a budget, applying for funding, organising staff for each lesson, preparing for each lesson and delivering a few of the lessons. I think that is another good thing about Mott MacDonald, I really enjoy being part of engineering outreach and Mott MacDonald have let me pursue that interest. I mean, I have had to put in a lot of my own time but I am appreciative of the fact that I even get some funding to essentially make spaghetti and marshmallow towers. I am also very appreciative of the Mott MacDonald staff who have helped deliver the course – it is great to see so many busy people dedicate time to teaching and promoting engineering in schools.

The last two weeks of the project have been based around the teams finishing their reports and delivering a presentation. Most of the reports were really good but there were a few hit and miss areas. One aspect nearly all teams have struggled with was switching between talking about power and energy; they basically use the units of kW and kWh randomly and hope they use the correct one! I was extremely impressed with one of the groups, they just fell into different roles within the team so naturally and worked so effectively. This team would have put a lot of professional engineering teams to shame, they were honestly that good. Although it was great to see they learnt an important engineering lesson – they were all working on a shared document and they were about to print and hand in their report an hour early... and then the document formatting just went all over the place. I am sorry but no amount of experience in engineering can prepare you for the frustrations of formatting documents.

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