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A glittering career

Geotechnical engineer at Hyder Consulting Paula Farshim lives life at a frenetic pace.

Aged just 27, Hyder Consulting's graduate of the year Paula Farshim has already managed to squeeze a great deal into a short career. Brought up in Northwood in north London, she showed an early aptitude for maths and underwent an Epiphany aged 14.

'I went to a careers fair at my school, and they asked what sort of thing I was interested in. I said environmentalism, international travel, and not to be bored.

They suggested engineering, ' she says. So Farshim took A-levels in maths, physics and art followed by an MEng at the University of Surrey in Guildford, at the time rated number one for engineering.

Her dissertation on sustainable materials won the Atkins prize and took her to the House of Commons, where she presented her findings to MPs.

'It was extremely nervewracking, ' she recalls. But it proved to be a good move because she came into contact with Hyder, which helped her with the presentation, and subsequently employed her.

'I joined Hyder, and within a year I was in Dubai, working as a geotechnical engineer on the Metro system. I was lead supervisor for earthworks and site investigations for underground sections, ' she says.

Working in an overwhelmingly male environment has not proved intimidating. 'I am in a minority but it's improving. I can see no problems, and possibly there is even some positive discrimination, ' she says.

Farshim promotes engineering in schools. 'We play the 'Flushed Away' game, to improve numeracy with simple adding.

I'm also involved with the Hyder WISE group, to increase the percentage of women in the profession, ' she says. She also sits on the ICE's sustainability steering group.

She beat 300 rivals to the Hyder Consulting prize. 'I am very busy. Maybe I need to cool down a bit, but there is so much to do and there are so many opportunities, ' she says.

Q&A Paula Farshim

Career Highlight: Being chosen the year after graduation to be site supervisor in Dubai. Also being named graduate of the year and a Telford Apprentice. I have never been bored.

Favourite food: Japanese - sushi bento box with tuna.

Perfect night out: The Comedy Club in London. Favourite comedian - Omid Djalili.

What I would rescue if my house was on fire: My photo album, which means my laptop.

Favourite place to holiday: I love south east Asia, and like to visit Borneo and Cambodia. I would also like to get involved in some sort of humanitarian work.

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