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GE jobfile

Name: Steve Mackereth


Occupation: senior geotechnical engineer, Structural Soils

Route to the job:I graduated in 1988 with a geology degree, but was unsure of career to choose. I applied to one of the first suitable positions I saw advertised in New Civil Engineer and this led to a job as a junior geotechnical engineer with Structural Soils in Bristol. The initial task of learning to describe soils and rocks accurately was followed by an extensive and ongoing period of 'live' training that gave me the knowledge and experience to undertake factual and interpretive ground investigations. Fairly early on, I supervised one of the company's first over-water contracts and since then I have specialized in this field. In 1995 I was promoted to senior engineer and my responsibilities have increased. I now head a team of engineers and geologists.

Typical day:That no two days are alike is probably the most appealing aspect. I spend 40% of my time on site, which can involve anything from pre-tender inspections to contract progress meetings.

When in the office I am responding to tender enquiries, organising equipment and personnel for larger contracts and supervising junior staff. I need to make time for writing my own reports.

Highs and lows:I find problem solving most satisfying, which is just as well with 15-20 contracts under my control at any one time. The highlight is designing an investigation to cope with particularly difficult ground or site conditions and watching it run smoothly. The low point is getting dragged down by what feels like unnecessary paperwork, which some clients/engineers seem to generate for the sake of it.

Ambitions: At the moment my goal is to improve upon what I hope is a high quality and efficient service to the company's wide client base. As the company grows, so does the size of contracts we are being awarded and the immediate challenge is to develop systems that allow these larger contracts to run efficiently.

Advice: For geologists moving into the geotechnical field, get some formal engineering training. Beyond that, never be too proud to get stuck in and get your hands dirty. It's not until you understand the problems operators and engineers face in the field that you can either help them overcome difficulties or, ideally, avoid them in the first place.

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