Mathew Brett, 29, is an incorporated engineer and a 3D single building modeller in the Cambridge office of consultant Whitby Bird.
Route to the job As a school leaver with no fixed idea of what career to follow, I went for something I knew I enjoyed - drawing. My first job was as a draughtsman with a heating and ventilation firm. I then moved to Cambridgeshire County Council's Highways Department and enrolled on a National Certificate course in civil engineering. During my time in Highways I began with general draughting duties, progressing on to highway and drainage design.
After gaining my HNC I moved to WS Atkins Bridge Maintenance Section where as a project engineer I assisted and ran various maintenance schemes from contract and specification preparation to site supervision as the RE. During this time I enrolled on an approved training scheme and subsequently gained my Incorporated Engineer Status. Two years ago I moved to Whitby Bird & Partners when it opened a new office in Cambridge.
Expectations Moving into structures was a challenge. I had limited structural design experience and knew from past experience that moving into a new field of work involved steep learning curves and a flexible approach. The new office in Cambridge had a young team with an enthusiastic, fresh outlook to design solutions and I was encouraged to develop the use of 3D single building models on CAD to produce design information, something I had never been involved with.
Reality My role varies from acting as project engineer on extension schemes, which present some interesting site problems, leading the office in the production of 3D building models and giving external presentations. I first used 3D CAD and the Microstation Triforma 3D modelling package about 18 months ago. Now I am using one of our models to produce all construction information for a £5M contract in Norwich. This has enabled us to improve the drawing production process and subsequently the time spent on revisions caused by design changes. I also use the models to visualise design solutions to be discussed with the design team.
The next goal is to involve more of the design team in modelling their designs so as to improve the coordination process. We also aim to link our models with analysis packages to increase efficiency of the design process. I am also giving a presentation to local architects to demonstrate how we use modern technology to enhance our design and drawing production.
Advice My advice to technicians is not to be afraid to take on new areas of work, and feel held back by not having that degree status. I believe enthusiasm for what you are doing and willingness to learn are the keys to success.