Name: Andrew Bell
Occupation: senior design engineer
Route to the job: I completed my first degree in civil engineering at Sheffield Hallam University in 1996. It was a fouryear sandwich course, and during my year out I worked in Lincolnshire County Council's highways department. After graduating I started work at Expanded Piling, primarily in the design department although I was sure at the time my job title could have been 'general dogsbody'. I am still working for the firm, which is part of the Carillion group, and over the past six years have been involved in a wide range of geotechnical projects. I recently successfully completed a two-year part time MSc in engineering geology and geotechnics at the University of Sheffield. This included a major research project investigating the increase in capacity with time of precast piles driven into stiff, overconsolidated clays.
Typical day: Working for a specialist subcontractor guarantees there is no typical day. The range of projects I am involved with on a daily basis is exhaustive. These ranges in size from £20K contracts to ones worth £5M. Often it is the smaller contracts which, frustratingly, take up more of my time. The diversity of workload is one of the main reasons why I entered the industry and has yet to dull my enthusiasm.
Highs and lows: A high would be coming back from a holiday to an empty in tray and no emails. Lows include the fact that this never happens.
Ambitions: To progress within Expanded Piling without losing sight of the fundamental rules governing soil/structure behaviour, particularly under the intense commercial pressure always present within the industry. I also plan to sit my professional review next year for full membership of the ICE.
Advice: From my experience, soil mechanics at university is often perceived by undergraduates as something of a 'black art'.
Experience within the industry will soon dispel this belief and as many of the job advertisements in Ground Engineering prove, there is a major shortage of skilled geotechnical engineers, which is excellent for career prospects.