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Working lives

Chris Lomax, 35, joined marine engineering specialist the Engineering Business last year as business development manager for renewable offshore power generation.

Route to the job After gaining a BSc in geology and MSc in engineering geology, both at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, I joined Arup in Newcastle, followed by a couple of years with geotechnical specialist MRM in Bristol. After a season's skiing in France I worked freelance for eight years for Arup in Leeds, Newcastle and Hong Kong, for Entec in Newcastle, and site investigation contractor LTG Ground Engineering. In this time I also spent a year travelling around the world, including to Hong Kong where I worked on the RE's staff on the foundations of a new skyscraper.

On my return, I joined Setech, geotechnical consultancy to the marine oil and gas, submarine telecoms and renewables industries. I worked there for three years before joining the Engineering Business (EB) in 2001.

It may seem like a lot of moves to a lot of places, but it has yielded a lot of very different, enjoyable and wide-ranging experiences.

Expectations On starting my first job at Arup, after the MSc, I thought I would be let loose on design immediately.

Being made to draw cross-sections and supervise site investigations seemed a waste of what I had learnt in the previous year. In fact the lessons I learnt from this, apart from a bit of humility, were to take your time, look at all the facts and try to see the bigger picture.

I never really had preconceptions of what I would be doing, but I could certainly not have anticipated the wide range of projects I have worked on - from hand-augering in a pond outside Birmingham to interpreting cone penetration test (CPT) data gathered in 2km of water for a pipeline crossing the Black Sea, and from supervising caisson construction in Hong Kong to reviewing the threat of fishing gear to telecom cables off New Zealand.

Reality EB is an offshore engineering company specialising in designing and building equipment and control systems used to bury submarine pipelines and cables. In the last few years it has expanded its focus to include the marine renewable energy industry.

While most of EB's employees are mechanical, agricultural, electrical and hydraulic engineers, I was taken on to develop the renewables business - particularly looking at tidal stream and wave power generation, and installation systems for the offshore wind industry.

In the last year my job has been dominated by managing the 'Stingray' project (NCE 19 September). This is the first tidal stream power generation system of its kind. Design started in January this year with marine surveys, environmental appraisals, consent applications and reporting to the project's sponsor, the Department of Trade & Industry.

The 180t steel and GRP structure was shipped to the Shetland Islands in July and installed in September. It was taken from design concept to operational reality in under 12 months.

Advice Never be afraid to ask for advice. If you have the opportunity to work abroad, or you are thinking of taking time off to travel, do it - it will change your outlook on work and life.

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