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Working lives

David Wadsworth, 51, is the contract manager heading the structural engineering section of Owen Williams' property division.

Route to the job A big influence on my teenage life was my scout leader. He travelled the country in his company Landrover with a thing called a theodolite, making maps. The career booklets at school showed a picture of someone with a theodolite and he was doing something called civil engineering. I eventually got my wish to use a theodolite, and spent most of my industrial periods from college - through HND and honours degree - wielding a 14 pound sledge hammer, peg bashing. I never did get the Landrover and never did make a map. Instead, I moved to a design office to get the necessary experience for membership of the ICE and have been in that side of the business ever since. Now, 30 years on, I find myself managing an engineering section within a multidisciplined consultancy.

Expectations I found the prospect of developing an engineering capability within a property consultancy quite exciting. I have become increasingly disappointed in recent years in engineers' reliance upon computers without having a feel for what they are trying to achieve. I am also conscious of the loss of a great swathe of middle ability in the design team. Those technician detailers who could so ably transfer engineers' ideas onto paper are now hard to find. I blame CAD draughting!

I wanted to try to redress this.

Reality A year in to my new job, I have already had a great variety of projects with Owen Williams involving many types of structure and commission. What I never expected in the job, however, was the amount of baggage I was expected to carry from past projects. Some of these bigger projects just never seem to end.

Long after the main design team has disbanded and gone, I have had to pick up loose ends and resolve outstanding matters.

One big plus of the job is the location. The firm is based in Lewes, in East Sussex, and all my work has been in the south east.

Another advantage is that my boss is not an engineer - so I have a reasonably free rein.

Advice Workload within the construction industry goes up and down with the economic climate and the fortunes of the individual firm. If progression to the top of the company hierarchy is your aim, then showing a willingness to stick with a firm through lean times pays dividends. If, however, you need a continuous infusion of engineering challenges, then you will need to move with the work. You may not make senior partner or managing director - but the day will come when your experience will be in big demand and you will feel really good about what you do - engineering.

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