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Working lives


Born in a German speaking area of Italy, Ingrid Pohl, 32, is a senior engineer with Buro Happold.

Route to job I took a five-year course in structural and civil engineering at the Technical University of Munich (Germany), specialising in civil engineering. I also attended business administration and management courses. Both during and after this time, I went on courses. I did student jobs in different parts of the world working in Italy, France and Egypt.

In addition to German, Italian and English, I speak French and Spanish.

I first worked for a specialist geotechnical practice in Munich and from there moved to a large Munich based international consultant - Dorst Dorsch Consult. Here I undertook a feasibility study and masterplan for a water supply scheme serving two cities in Albania. This meant relocating to Tirana for a period.

I then returned to Italy and joined a small consultancy as a civil and structural engineer, where after a short time I became a junior partner.

The office was located in a rural area and carried out a wide variety of projects ranging from drainage schemes to multi-storey car parks.

In Italy, an engineer is expected to act as planner, project manager, quantity surveyor and site engineer, while being the lead consultant for many jobs. In addition to undertaking these roles on a number of jobs, I also assumed responsibility for running aspects of the practice, principally managing staff and accounts.

Expectations I wanted to gain more responsibility in managing jobs and people and work on a full range of different tasks and projects. In particular, I wanted to gain experience of larger projects and working with other disciplines.

Reality I joined Buro Happold in 1999 as a senior engineer in the infrastructure, transport and environment group. To start with, I assisted in a number of transport assessments and infrastructure design projects.

During the past year, I have mainly been working as discipline leader for civil engineering, infrastructure and transport on the development of the BBC White City site. This is a £220M development providing offices, production facilities and music studios on a 6ha site in west London.

My work includes a range of activities from scheme design through detailed design to site activities. One of the most important aspects is liaising and co-ordinating with other internal groups and external parties.

Working for a large international company like Buro Happold offers a range of thrilling projects to work on and a large number of highly specialised and innovative colleagues. It is very motivating to work with such a cutting-edge practice and, especially for senior staff, a large company can offer great opportunities.

Advice If you want to work internationally, you have to be proactive in finding a job where this is possible. People won't come to you.

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