Katie Trout – Digital Engineer, Laing O’Rourke
What is your current job?
I manage the implementation of digital engineering on all our six construction projects in Wales and the South West. Digital engineering is when the design is done in 3D using a computer model. This model allows me to add in and work out useful information for pricing or planning the construction and maintaining the built facility on completion.
I work with clients, design teams and the project delivery teams. I have to understand their needs, what they can do and encourage them to work well together. I provide them with training in the specialist software and latest developments in construction technology. When There are some downsides to the job: sometimes I have to work long hours on site and in all weathers.
What do you love about your job?
I love being a digital engineer because I work with a fantastic team. I get to visit lots of different projects as they are being built and I get to learn about the latest advancements in construction and technology. I love being innovative and training others. I worked on the huge Terminal 5 project at Heathrow.
The ultimate reward is being able to drive past a school, hospital or bridge and say ‘I built that!’
Why did you choose a job in engineering?
I was in the 6th form at Wellsway School, studying maths, physics, French and German AS Levels, when I started thinking about what degree course I wanted to study and where. It was important for me to understand what jobs or career a degree course might lead to. I was looking for a vocational degree, one that would lead to an interesting and rewarding career, and one where I could use all my talents.
My school hosted a careers’ fair and I spoke to a lot of different companies and university students. One student from Bristol University was doing Civil Engineering with French which would fit well with my A Levels. He explained briefly about what civil engineering was and how engineers work in countries all over the world, often helping set up what we take for granted, such as access to clean drinking water.
I decided that I was going to study engineering at university so I researched the types of engineering and spoke to different engineers about them.
I settled on studying Civil Engineering with French and I was sponsored by the Institution of Civil Engineers. After university I went on to gain my first professional qualification, the IEng, when I was 26.
What skills and qualities do you need?
It’s important as an Engineer to be inquisitive and to ask questions, so that you can solve complex and detailed problems.
Working with and managing people are key. It is important to have good people skills and be able to listen, work well in a team and be approachable.
Technology is forever advancing and changing the way we do things, so I have to embrace new technologies and understand how they work. I am learning all the time.
What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering?
Engineering is seen as an industry dominated by males, this can be quite intimidating for young women. Do not be put off by this and visit as many places as possible, from companies that offer apprenticeships or scholarships, to university open days. Talk to female students doing the course and staff in the department, visit the workshops and engineering teaching facilities and think whether you would feel happy there. Look into “Insight” or “Head Start” courses that are available during the holidays and try to get on one. I went to France for 5 days and played lots of engineering and team building games which helped make my mind up that engineering was for me.
When you were at school, what would have helped you prepare for a career in engineering and become more employable?
Triple Science was not offered at school for GCSE but would have been useful to me. I did not study a practical technology subject, but a lot of my colleagues did and this has stood them in good stead for understanding the practicalities of how things go together.
I studied A level maths, but an A level in further maths would have helped me with the engineering mathematics I had to study as part of my degree.
Every summer holiday during university I worked on construction sites gaining valuable experience that made me highly employable on graduation.
Construction is a difficult environment in which to be a female engineer and you really must want to do it to succeed. It takes an intelligent, driven and committed person to make it a lasting career so if you think that sounds like you then research it, speak to people doing it, and ultimately give it a try! You never know, you might end up as famous as Brunel one day!