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Working lives

YOUR CAREER: Simon D'Vali, 29, is an engineer with the highways and transportation department at Leeds City Council.

Route to the job I joined the highways and transportation department at trainee level in 1993. I left school without any A-levels and until then I'd just taken a series of dead end, manual jobs. So, for the last eight years I've been studying part time.

Last year I was studying for between 15 and 25 hours every week. It's been hard - my wife is studying too, for a PhD in astrophysics - but if you want to do something badly you have to go for it.

I graduated this year from Bolton Institute and I became an associate member of the ICE in 1999.

Expectations I knew I had the chance of a career when I took this job, and I was also attracted by the technical side. I had a keen interest in technical drawing when I was at school, although I soon realised that everything is done on AutoCAD.

But it wasn't a disappointment in any way. I still enjoyed working here right from the start.

Reality One of the first jobs I had was assisting on the Leeds high occupancy vehicle (HOV) initiative, the first car-sharing scheme of its kind in the country. This involved looking at an existing route and using the inside lane for car sharing and buses. We had to do a lot of planning and surveys, which included tackling problems with side roads, where single-occupant cars might be joining the route.

Now I take on my own projects, working with just one supervisor - and I've quadrupled my salary.

Recent projects I've worked on include the £1M Dawson's Corner scheme in Pudsey, and supplying traffic regulation orders to a large traffic development at Headingley Cricket Ground.

I'm still interested in the technical side, and it's also very satisfying to know that I'm adding to the infrastructure of the city. I was brought up here and I know the city well, so I have a great sense of achievement when I have designed something which I then see built.

Advice You can work your way up - it's long winded but it can be done - although I would advise people to do their A-levels. I would also advise anyone who gets the chance of training to grab it.

It's the way forward. You can't afford to sit still in this profession, you have to educate yourself and move on. For me, studying has snowballed. If I don't do further study in transportation, I will take an MA in management.

Now I look back and think that in 1993 I had no qualifications at all.

Next year I will go for chartered status, and after that there's not much more I can achieve academically.

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