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Working lives

Your career

Sally Mullinger, 27, works as a senior engineer for Birse Construction in the North East.

Route to the job

I was always good at science at school, particularly physics, and wanted to go into a job in either science or engineering. During my A levels, I did some research and decided that civil engineering was the most exciting, different kind of occupation. I went to the University of Teesside to do a degree in civil engineering. It was a sandwich course, and I did a year's work experience with Birse during that time. I really enjoyed my time with Birse, working as a student engineer on a sewage treatment plant at Berwick on Tweed.

Expectations

I was very happy to go back to Birse as I had good memories of my sandwich year. I was looking for plenty of hands-on experience, on site, and a company which would give me the chance to develop both my technical and managerial skills in a wide range of projects. I wanted to be involved in a variety of construction projects which made a difference to the community and to people's lives.

The reality

Working here is interesting and as varied as I had hoped. The diversity of the projects that Birse is involved with is one of the advantages. I have worked on pipelines, highways, bridges and now rail. At present, I am working on the Leeds 1st Project, the redevelopment of Leeds railway station. I started out as a site engineer, and my duties then involved setting out. Since I have been promoted to senior engineer, I am more responsible for the management of subcontractors, dealing with technical issues on site and ensuring that works are safely carried out to the correct specification and on time. I've also worked as a design engineer in the company's technical services department, as well as having a wide range of on-site experience.

That was part of my training agreement - I will be sitting by CPR this spring. For me, the best thing about my work is the sense of pride and achievement in constructing something that is going to be used by the public. That far outweighs any of the disadvantages, like working long hours or sometimes being away from home.

Advice

My advice to anyone who wants to work on the contracting side is to get industry experience - it's a real eye opener and showed me that this was what I wanted to do.

Industry placements are an excellent way of finding out about the construction industry, and the best way of finding out if this way of working is for you. I've not experienced any difficulties or barriers because I am female - I don't expect to be treated differently. I earn respect the same way that everyone else does. I would say to anyone, if you get an opportunity to learn and find out more about the industry, take it.

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