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Working lives

YOUR CAREER: Peter White, 38, is a project engineer in the contracts section, City Engineering Services, Cityworks Directorate, Newcastle City Council.

Route to the job I joined the City Engineers Department in 1984 after graduating from Newcastle University with a degree in civil engineering. I started in the drainage section, where I was involved in tunnelling works for large diameter sewers. I then worked in highway design, maintenance and contract supervision.

I became chartered in 1995 and my responsibilities soon increased. I became a resident engineer on the construction of a £3.8m dual carriageway through the west of Newcastle city centre.

I recently enjoyed a spell as project engineer in the design section, with responsibility for a team designing highway improvements. I am now in the contracts section, managing highway works contracts.

Expectations I remember university studies being very theoretical and while this gave me an essential foundation for technical problem solving, our business is as much about commerce, administration and customer focus.

Before starting my current job, I had expectations of spending more time in the office and less time on site, becoming more involved in corporate matters and contributing to the running of the department.

The reality My expectations were generally accurate, and although I enjoy the additional responsibility, I occasionally miss muddy boots and hard hats. On a day to day basis I manage works from the ordering process, through site supervision, to the certification of payments to contractors. One of the job's attractions is the diversity and complexity of working in a very busy urban environment.

The department has ISO 9001 accreditation and I am the quality assurance manager. This work can be extremely rewarding as we attempt to embrace the concept of continuous improvement. I am also developing an environmental management system, and expanding quality procedures to include the requirements of the CDM Regulations.

Advice Ask plenty of questions, take opportunities for varied experience and keep good records of what you have done, why you did it and how much it cost.

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