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My job explained: Design engineer

design engineer Arlina Ariffin’s first passion was planes. She studied aeronautical engineering at university and now reaches for the sky with the high-rise buildings she helps to create.

What stage are you at in your career?

I have been working for two years now, since graduating from university. I have two years left before I prepare for my chartership review.

When did you decide to be an engineer?

I have always wanted to be an engineer because both my dad and brother studied engineering. I was quite strong in maths and physics at school, and so when it came to choosing what to do at university engineering was an obvious choice.

Can you describe a typical working day?

The days change a lot depending on the stage of the project I’m working on. Normally, I get in at about nine in the morning to check my emails for project correspondence, then I may have a few meetings with a range of people working on the project. This could be other engineers in my team or external people, like the client or architect. I may also be out of the office at times visiting sites at various stages of construction.

The team I am working in is mainly involved in designing city high rise buildings. One of the projects I am currently working on, which is at construction stage, is near the Gherkin (famous building in London). That has been an interesting experience as we are working with well-known architects in such a high-profile part of London.

What do you like best about your job?

I like the ability to do a lot of different things from project management to designing to client contact, so you really feel that you make use of a wide range of skills acquired from university. Also, I enjoy interacting with people and I meet a lot of different professionals. It’s a great career for women in particular, as they are often good at communicating, which is essential for the job.

What do you like least?

I am disappointed in the public perception of engineering. People have odd ideas about engineering and as a result, I don’t think engineers are valued as much as they should be. If you look around you, engineering is everywhere, and most people don’t seem to realise this.

What have been the main challenges?

You will be in a minority if you’re a woman and decide to study engineering but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Any challenge is psychological, so you just have to be confident and persevere.

What personal qualities are important for your job?

You need to be able to communicate your ideas well, express yourself clearly and get along with a lot of people, both in the company and externally.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following in your footsteps?

The most important advice is to grab every opportunity that comes your way. The thing to remember about engineering is that you will possess a wide range of skills set and being such a flexible industry, it can take you in all sorts of directions. In my case, I completed an aeronautical engineering degree during which I studied high-rise buildings for my final year project, and when I saw how rewarding it would be to shape the city’s landscape, I pursued structural engineering as a career. So, if you do find something that interests you, then you should go for it. The skills you learn in any engineering degree are extremely useful and are welcome by all kinds of different employers, so you will find yourself in an ideal position after university!

What’s your favourite engineering feat?

Well, I may have switched to buildings but my first love and favourite feat is still Concorde!

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