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Working lives

Your career :

Eur Ing Joelle Chaubeau, 28, is a geotechnical engineer with Arup Geotechnics

Route to the job

The practical and scientific aspects of engineering have long appealed to me. After completing a five year diploma course in geotechnics and geophysics at the Institute of Sciences & Technology in Paris, I travelled to Hong Kong where I worked for piling contractor BachySoletanche (BSL). This work mainly involved office design and support for construction sites. After a year, I was seconded to Arup Geotechnics in Hong Kong for a further 12 months. From there I joined the Arup Geotechnics' London office in 1999.

Expectations

Arup attracts technically challenging projects calling on a wide range of technical expertise.

Being a major international consultancy, the company also offered me the chance of international travel. Moving to the UK was a real opportunity in my career development.

The reality

Since joining Arup Geotechnics in London I have worked on a variety of project types including building foundations, deep basements and earthworks. I have been involved in both technical and contractual aspects. In many cases I work closely with other engineering disciplines (structural, maritime and civil) as well as with other parties (clients, contractors, environmentalists, architects and archaeologists). This helps to make every project interesting and challenging.

Since most sites in London include some features of archaeological interest, I often find myself liaising with Arup's archaeological consultant Richard Hughes. I also have to consult clients, architects and quantity surveyors on the impact of archaeological finds on a project's program and cost, and on aspects such as planning consent. It is very interesting to see Roman works and foundations - they are not as primitive as you might expect when compared with modern techniques.

I find the pay for young engineers in London is relatively poor and it is hard to maintain a decent quality of life, although the quality of work and the opportunities go a long way to make up for this. I face the additional barrier of non-recognition by the ICE of my Eur Ing title, which is acknowledged on the Continent as the European equivalent to the UK's chartership system (with the additional requirement that one needs to have a working knowledge of two European languages).

Advice

Enjoying your work is important, I think there is a lot of job satisfaction to be had in my work. I find geotechnics intellectually challenging, and rewarding because the results achieved can usually be seen. If you like challenges and problem solving, then it could be the job for you.

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