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Working life: Bring on the Games

Name: Joanne Smith
Job: Engineer, London 2012 Olympic Park
Age: 23

Where did you study?
University of Bath

Career history so far.
Halfway through university I spent three months working for a small consultancy in Suffolk, which whilst it was a great learning experience, showed me I wanted more of a challenge in my chosen career; I wanted to be involved in more unusual projects that required really innovative thinking. The following summer I worked for Buro Happold on the redevelopment of Highbury Square, the original Arsenal ground. I was so excited to be given the opportunity to work on such a famous project that I knew this was the kind of work I wanted to be involved in, in the future. Luckily enough I was offered a graduate post at Buro Happold, and have been working there for just over a year in the temporary and tensile structures team.
Due to the nature of tensile structures, many of the design decisions are left up to the engineer, so I really get the chance to be creative. Since working at Buro Happold I have had the chance to work on all kinds of projects, large and small, including one of my favourites, a large transparent water sculpture.

What was the biggest surprise about starting work?
I’d always dreaded starting work as everyone always gives the impression that work is boring, and just something you do to pay the bills. However, I love my job; I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

How did you get a job on the Olympic site? As part of my company’s tensile structures team working on a London 2012 venue.

Describe an average day.
I can’t do anything until I’ve had my first tea of the day! Then we have a quick catch up to see how everyone is getting on, and to find out about different aspects of the project. It’s important that all of us in the team work very closely together, and understand our roles and responsibilities. As the graduate in the team everyone is very supportive and patient with me, and really believe in my capability which has definitely helped to build up my confidence. The work I get involved in varies, from building a 3D model on the computer for analysis, designing drainage details or drawing up concept designs. Every few weeks on a Friday night our whole team try to go out for a few drinks together; it really helps us to get to know each other both inside and outside of work.

And the best thing about the job?
I‘m really lucky as I get to work with great people on fantastic projects. It’s such a relaxed atmosphere in our office, with everyone taking it in turns to make the tea, but at the same time totally dedicated to what they are working on. It’s kind of a "work hard, play hard" approach.

What’s the Most interesting thing you’ve done?
I think every project I’ve worked on has been interesting in its own way; they’ve all been very different. However, the ones that stand out the most are the giant water sculpture, and obviously London 2012.

Do you have any advice for students when looking for a job/planning their career?
The most important bit of advice anyone gave me when I was a student was to get as much experience as possible, in as many different types of companies as possible. I did this, and it helped me to realise exactly what kind of job I wanted after university – and what’s more, I’m doing it now!

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