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My career journey Ruth Leong-Scanlan

It’s almost two years since I finished my masters in water and environmental engineering, and I think this is a great opportunity to do some reflection.

Since starting work, have I developed professionally, technically and personally?

I really like that I work for an organisation where I can be honest and make a contribution to the way we run our business

A good question. Some days, like today, I think to myself, “if you had done that this way and in this order, it would have worked better.” So, I’ll think I’m not progressing fast enough. In this case my thoughts related to asking more questions during a project handover before a colleague left. – “you could have just asked this before they left, now you are trawling through this document.” Everyone has those days. Days when they realise they could have done something better. We all learn from mistakes. I’ve certainly made many and learnt lots.

Comparing myself now to when I started, the fact that I’m running my own (small) wastewater pipeline design projects gives me confidence that, actually, I have progressed a lot. No way could I have done this when I joined Mott MacDonald. I have learned to use project management skills to ensure projects keep moving to completion as well as my engineering judgment to know what to do technically. By no means do I think I am there yet, I know my limitations, and I still need the support of more senior engineers and technical experts, but I’ve certainly improved. From my second day sitting in my first client project meeting at Thames Water to where I am now, helping new graduates, being a valued member of a team where my opinion matters and making suggestions to more senior colleagues.

When I say, “making suggestions to more senior colleagues”, I don’t just mean in projects. I’m an honest person, and it seems my colleagues appreciate it (yes, they have actually said it’s a good thing!). I am able to (and I certainly do) make suggestions to senior management for how I think we could run our business better, whether it’s to do with making efficiencies in projects, the ways we can improve our wellbeing at work or something as simple as how the recycling and rubbish bins are laid out around the office to make us more environmentally friendly.

I really like that I work for an organisation where I can be honest and make a contribution to the way we run our business. I think it’s a tribute to the people who work for Mott MacDonald that we can be open to influencing change from the bottom up or wherever the idea comes from. I think the fact that we are employee owned enables us to work in this way.

Am I enjoying my work?

Yes. Without a doubt. I’ve worked on a variety of water related projects including highways drainage, the Thames Water management plan and last week I went on site to see my first design that has made it to construction. To some people, going to see a 2.8 m diameter sewage pipe being constructed might sound boring, but when you’ve designed every detail of it, from the manholes to the dry weather flow channel, you do start to feel personally involved and responsible! Of course there are days when you wish you could be on a beach, swimming in the sea, or anywhere else but work (especially when it’s sunny outside the office!). However all the work, even the boring bits, is worth it when you realise you have contributed to something that has impacted the real world and actual people’s lives. The projects I mentioned earlier have influenced where Highways England invest budgets in drainage to ensure roads are safe, the way Thames Water supplies its customers with drinking water in future and making sure when new developments are built they can be connected to the Thames Water network.

Additionally, I have enjoyed work related extra curricular activities. I run a STEM club with local schools and I am a member of the Reading sports and social committee. Both of these mean I get to interact with the other members of the office, even those I don’t work with directly. I have always been someone who likes to get involved, so this has enhanced my working life.

On reflection, I'm a 24-year-old graduate civil engineer, working on design and feasibility water design consulting for Mott MacDonald and I consider myself very lucky. The decisions I've made lead me to a job with interesting work, good people and a clear career path.

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