Posts Tagged: Year Out


Wednesday 28th October 2009

I had to give a talk today about my year out. All the placement students have to give a presentation in front of 2nd years who are thinking of doing the same thing, and we get 15 minutes to cover the year. I’d imagine in most cases it’s pretty difficult to sum it all up in 15 minutes, but in my case I found it particularly difficult because I worked in three places doing two very different jobs. There was a lot that I missed out, which is a pity.

This is my final year of University. I was worried that I’d find it all incredibly tedious but actually I’m rather enjoying it. Yes some of my lectures are truly tedious (I really can’t find it in me to care about geotechnical engineering, possibly because the lectures are really hard to follow), but equally some are really fascinating (as ever, the water module. Who would’ve thought that the design of water/sewage treatment works could be interesting?), so it’s all good. I think my attitude is very different to before I did my year out, which is something I didn’t think would happen. I find it less difficult to motivate myself to do work now, which is pretty good seeing how I’ve got a hell of a lot to do this year…

I’m halfway through week 5 of the final year (yes, Cardiff University starts back at a proper time, unlike some “institutions” I could mention that can’t be bothered to start the year until about halfway into October… :-p). I’ve already applied for one graduate job, my to-do list for the rest of the week includes finishing the form for another one, and I’m considering a couple of other things too. All that, and I think I’ve still got a fairly good chance of getting a job with the company I finished my year placement with, should I want it. But the thing I’ve just applied for is the one I really want.

Whilst I was writing the talk I gave today, looking through my diaries and photos from the past year and thinking about how to cram almost a year’s worth of experiences into 15 minutes (the answer: 37 slides in PowerPoint), I started to miss working. In fact, I went with one of my brothers to watch my other brother play rugby the other day (yup, both my younger brothers followed me to Cardiff when they went to university. Oddly, we’re still all at different unis), and there was a building site right next to the pitch. As we walked past, I couldnt help thinking to myself “yeah, it’d be a lovely day to be out on-site today”.

The thing I miss the most is the feeling of “I did that”. It’s the feeling of having done something, of having made a difference in some small way and having something tangible to show for it. You can go and see the work I’ve done in the last year, and it’ll be there for a while yet. That’s a great thought.

I pretty much stumbled into engineering. I’m not sure how, but now I’m here I’m really glad that I did. It’s a fabulous profession because We Do Stuff. In the Victorian era, engineers like Brunel, Telford and Stephenson were celebrities; people queued up to visit their latest marvels. Engineers built your house, designed the circuits to carry electricity to it and worked out how best to lay the cables that carried this writing to your computer, which yet another engineer designed. Civil engineers are the reason you have clean drinking water, and I think we’re fairly justified in arguing that we save more lives every year through that one thing that we all take utterly for granted, than the medical profession could ever hope to achieve.

And I guess that brings us back to sewage treatment. On which I have a lecture at 9am tomorrow morning, so I should go to bed.

Posted In: EngineeringSleep Tagged: | 17 Comments

I Really Can’t Think Of A Decent Title For This Post

Monday 25th May 2009

Watching the Monaco Grand Prix yesterday, I was extremely jealous of everyone who was there to watch it. I’d love to go to any Grand Prix, but rarely do I watch and wish I was actually there. But the idea of watching the race around the streets of Monaco, over the gorgeous harbour and under a fantastic blue sky, then retiring to a bar for several (probably overly-expensive) cold beers, really appeals.

The race at Monaco is definitely one of the worst. It’s fairly (very) processional, with very little overtaking. Unless it’s raining, it’s very rarely a massively exciting race. Yet if you ask most F1 fans, it’s the race they most want to go to. That’s because even though it’s a crap race, it’s a unique opportunity to see massively powerful, massively fast cars racing on a public road; cars doing an average speed of 100mph on roads that otherwise take normal traffic, and doing it in close proximity to barriers which punish the slightest mistake. On a properly fast lap, the drivers actually brush the edge of the tyres against the barriers. At over 100mph. Oh, and because it’s all really cramped, it’s also the race where you can get the closest to the track and see all this taking place. Great stuff.

Anyway, there are a few things that I’ve been meaning to blog about (and how many times have I said that now?). I’m gonna try to write some of that stuff down though soon. To sort of nudge myself into doing it, I’m gonna list some of the topics here. Hopefully that’ll shame me into writing it, cos in a month or two I’ll look at the list and think “oops, I said I’d write about that”…

  • Technology
  • Photography (this one could be contraversial…)
  • Alcohol
  • Business/economy
  • Politics
  • Life, the universe, everything
  • Driving
  • Engineering/work

Some of those could get amalgamated (“Alcohol” and “Life/universe/everything” are good candidates for that), and I might think of something else to write about before I do any of the above. The list is just there to prod me into writing more (and maybe someone else will prod me, “Oi, you said you were gonna write about x and you still havent!”).

I was somewhat amazed to read the comments on Flix’s blog a while back, with people saying they wouldn’t wanna change uni-world for the real world. I’m the exact opposite. As much as I moan about it sometimes, and as much as I’m utterly bored of getting up at quarter to 7 (or quarter to 6 on Monday mornings), I much prefer work. I like being finished at half 5, I like the feeling of Getting Something Done, and I absolutely adore being out of the Student Bubble. Being paid really doesn’t suck, either. I was back in Cardiff on Friday and went to the pub with a load of my mates down there, and all of us who have done a year out this year agree that we prefer working. In some ways, I’m kinda dreading going back to Uni.

Anyway, 3 months left and allegedly I’ll be moving away from Brize soon, to work in Head Office on another project. Be annoying to be off-site during the sunny summer, but it’ll be interesting to try yet another thing this year. Reduce my fuel bills a hell of a lot, too…

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsportSite Tagged: | 1 Comment

Simple Twist of Fate

Monday 15th December 2008

I mentioned previously that I’ve been made redundant from my job. I also mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get another job in Engineering, but that the odds were better than I initially expected.

I’ve been studying Civil Engineering for the last 2 years. It’s a fairly broad field, but basically it’s concerned with any sort of construction; be that of buildings, roads, bridges, railways… When you go out and work there are basically two main fields you can choose to work in. In my current (for the rest of the week) job, I’m working for a firm of consulting engineers. What that means is that they design the building; do all the calculations to make sure it stands up and things like that. Mostly office work. The other field you can choose to work in is contracting engineering, and that really does involve working in a field… They’re the ones who work on-site with the builders and whoever to hopefully make sure it’s built properly, on time and in budget.

When I was deciding what type of work I wanted to do in my placement year (and thereafter), I focused on consulting. I think because I didn’t like the idea of having to be outside when it’s cold and rainy, but to be honest I don’t think I put that much thought into it. When I spoke to the people at the university who run the year placements after being made redundant, they said that it was more likely I’d get a job in contracting, because they’re still doing jobs – if they’ve started building something, they don’t just stop half way through…

Anyway, I realised that I’d never really given it much thought in the past. But as I started thinking about the pros and cons of contracting, I was starting to think that I could really enjoy it. Not that I don’t enjoy working in the consultancy, but being able to do both in the space of a year is a really good opportunity to be able to see which one I want to do when I graduate.

So, I had an interview for a firm of contracting engineers a couple of weeks ago, and got the job. I start at the end of January (hopefully… The site I’m meant to be working on in Cardiff was meant to start in October, so the guy who interviewed me said theres a slight chance it could slip again). Basically, I’ve pretty much lucked into a job which I could potentially enjoy more, has better opportunities for sponsorship/graduate employment (and which pays substantially more. I know it’s very un-British to mention money, but meh). The downsides being longer hours, and that it’s bloody cold outside…

It’s amusing to me how little employers seem to care about my degree (or, indeed, how irrelevant much of my degree is to my working life). I mentioned in the interview the other week that I’d had to drop down to a Bachelors instead of a Masters, cos my grades were a bit crap. His response? “Well, we don’t really care. Those are all just bits of paper”. My current (for the rest of the week) boss said the other day that it’s much more important to him as an employer for people he interviews to be able to communicate well, rather than be amazingly qualified. They can teach the technical stuff, they can’t teach you how to communicate well. In a lot of ways, the experience I got from working for the Bank has been much more useful to me than what I’ve learned in two years of uni. Draw your own conclusions from this paragraph on my attitudes to University, because I’ve strayed from the point I was going to make.

Basically, I’ve been pretty lucky. Because I lost my job, I’ve ended up with a really good placement year and the possibility of completely re-assessing my career plans. It’s a funny old world.

Posted In: EngineeringStuff Tagged: | 3 Comments