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Careers: Bridges

WSP principal engineer, infrastructure, Debashish Mukherjee describes what attracted him to becoming a bridge engineer.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

It is difficult to single one out. Two projects in East London come to mind, particularly working on a one hundred-year-old bridge carrying a sewer in the Olympic Park. That really stretched the limits of my professional experience and knowledge.

How does your role impact on the built environment?

As a bridge design engineer, I play an essential role in considering the medium and longer term effects on the built environment. Sustainability is the most important aspect of any new design or for strengthening an existing bridge.

Debashish Mukherjee and David Balmforth (right)

Certified: Mukherjee receives his chartered membership certificate from ICE President David Balmforth

Do you prefer working on bridge design or applying an engineering solution when something goes wrong on an existing structure?

They are interlinked and can improve solutions based on the experience gained from the other. For example, asset management experience helps me to understand the limitations of any particular form of structure. I can then use this experience in a new design to avoid or minimise these limitations and make them more future proof.

How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?

I tell my friends my work involves designing and enabling the construction of new bridges, and helping to maximise the working life of an existing bridge, usually to improve traffic conditions.

How did you get into the job?

I have always been fascinated by various civil related works such as buildings, bridges, rail, roads, dams and towers. I always thought there was something dignified about how they each help to shape our society. I took up civil engineering at university, later on I became an incorporated engineer and then a chartered engineer with the ICE .

How far removed from the traditional role of the civil engineer do you think your job is?

I believe that there is no such thing as a “traditional role” for civil engineers. It is so diverse and keeps on changing with time, innovations and advancement in technology.

How do you see your role changing in the next five years?

I think my role will become more dynamic as consultants work to ensure more collaborative working with clients, contractors and designers.

What is the logical career progression for you?

My next step as a professional is to become a chief engineer/director. It will be exciting to have a greater stake in influencing decision-making regarding the
future infrastructure requirements of our society. The challenge will be to deliver projects in the most sustainable way without compromising quality.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a bridge engineer?

Each project is unique and comes with its own set of problems and challenges in finding the appropriate solutions.
There is no right or wrong answer, only good or better. [Civil engineering] comes with a satisfaction of creating, developing or repairing something that benefits society directly and shapes the country as a whole. It is civil engineering that drives civilisation forward.

What would you be if you weren’t in this role?

I am an amateur water-colourist. I might have become a professional artist if I hadn’t become a bridge engineer.

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