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Working lives

Your Career

Geri Howson, 27, is a structural project engineer with WSP Group and a member of the company's Taskforce 2006 Route to the job I graduated from Salford University with a BEng in civil engineering with European studies in 1996. I started my career with Symonds as a graduate structural engineer and gained site experience by being seconded to Tarmac (now Carillion).

In 1999 I was headhunted by a former colleague to work as a graduate engineer for WSP Group.

Within my first 18 months with WSP I became a chartered engineer with the Institution of Structural Engineers as well as being promoted to project engineer. This enabled me to put myself forward and be accepted on WSP's Taskforce - a group of 12 young people established to look at business issues for the group over the next five years.

Expectations When I joined WSP I wanted the opportunity to broaden my skills in a business direction as well as technically. I wanted to work abroad;

use the skills I had gained at university and ultimately develop my experience to include a variety of projects.

As a rapidly expanding company I felt that WSP offered the technical and managerial career development opportunities I was looking for.

Reality Day to day, I liase with clients, other consultants and contractors on a variety of issues. This can be anything from developing a scheme with an architect to deciding how best to safely dismantle a wall.

When I first joined Taskforce I was the project engineer on two projects in Germany (Frankfurt and Munich), which meant I spent a lot of time travelling. It is sometimes difficult to manage my time between project work and Taskforce but I enjoy both sides of the job, and don't mind working longer hours to meet the deadlines.

Being on Taskforce has enabled me to develop my business skills in parallel with my technical experience.

Advice My advice to anyone wanting to look at business issues as well as project work is to speak to your management. Let people know you want to be involved and make suggestions about ways you think you could get included. It is a useful exercise to prepare a career plan and let your management know what your aspirations are. Make the most of all the opportunities that are offered to you, and be prepared to be flexible. Be proactive in all aspects of your job and gain as much experience as you can.

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