Route to the job: 'After a degree in civil engineering at Leeds University, I joined Arup's Newcastle office in 1989, initially working in the civil engineering design group on highways and drainage projects. In 1990 I transferred to Arup's Oasys group and began writing FORTRAN code for updating the company's concrete analysis and design software. I studied part-time for an MSc in water resources engineering at Newcastle University before returning to the civils group to work on flood defence projects. My dissertation had involved some work on an Oasys finite element program for steady state seepage analysis and this led to my becoming involved in maintaining the FORTRAN code for the geotechnical programs.After a brief sojourn with the Environment Agency in 1996, I went back to Oasys, converting the FORTRAN GEO programs to Visual C++.'
Typical day: 'This might involve some ongoing development work (such as adding plotting of bending moment graphs to an FE analysis program) or dealing with enquiries from 'how do I delete a piezometer in the graphical input view?' to 'why does my FREW model show bending moments below the base of the wall?'. With colleagues at our London office, I am part of a development team, and will speak most days to other members on some C++ technicality.'
Highs and lows: 'Highs - when you've written something new and it works well; when a user says they think the program is good; when a bug is reported and you find and fix it quickly; knowing that the programs are used worldwide on an enormous range of design projects. Lows - when the development is behind schedule, which is most of the time; when you've been trying to do something tricky, it isn't quite right yet and the phone keeps ringing.'
Ambitions: 'We've been converting the programs for over three years and are just about to start adding new features. I'd like to become more involved in keeping up to date with developments in geotechnics, to predict what might be required in several years.'
Advice: 'You need mathematical and specialist - in this case, geotechnical - knowledge, as well as a particular way of thinking, which is not necessarily logically. Programming can be learnt. If you are interested in mathematical models of physical processes and find computers easy to use, you would probably like this type of work.'