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A transatlantic success story

Gifford's award-winning Brenda Shonkwiler has no regrets over following her heart to England.

Brenda Shonkwiler's next few months are looking hectic. 'I'm working on getting chartered as both a structural and a civil engineer. I'm buying a house and getting married, ' she says.

Shonkwiler, 27, won the Institution of Structural Engineers' Young Structural Engineer of the Year Award on 11 May, 'for outstanding performance and showing exceptional promise for the future'. She scooped the prize for her role as assistant project manager and engineer on the £25M South Bromsgrove High School scheme.

'I was involved from tender design through to the end of construction. It was fascinating being involved in all aspects, and there were things like the posttensioned oors that I'd never worked on before, ' she says.

After graduating in 2002 from Cornell University, New York state, US, Shonkwiler landed a job with CH2M Hill as a trainee engineer, soon nding herself as project engineer on the demolition and reconstruction of a hospital wing in Boise, Idaho. She was also conducting a transatlantic relationship and in 2004, followed her ance to England and then joined Gifford.

'During my interview it came across that it's important not just to get work done but to enjoy the process of getting it done.

Finding a company that offered a lot of variety and that stretched me was important.' With six projects under her belt in 30 months Shonkwiler's wish, 'I want variety, I want to learn new things', has been granted. So what's next? 'A high rise building project would be different and really interesting, ' she says.

Shonkwiler even takes her work home with her. 'My ance is a construction manager with Balfour Beatty. The question 'what did you do today' can turn into a conversation that lasts for hours!' she laughs.

Q&A Brenda Shonkwiler

If my house was on re: I'd save my hamster, Twitch.

I got a hamster because: I wanted a pet, but one that wouldn't live too long, in case I went back to America. Twitch is quite solitary and very self-sufficient so he doesn't mind when I go camping and hiking in Northumberland, the Brecon Beacons and the Cotswolds.

My wedding dress will be: White, fitted, with a flowing skirt, and stitched with beads and stones, giving it a wonderful pattern and texture.

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