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Working lives

Your career; Headhunting

Rob Kingdom, 32, is a diving engineer, at Babtie Group's Marine Structures Division in Glasgow.

Route to Job

I graduated from Loughborough University with a 2:1 Beng Honours degree in civil engineering in 1991, and soon after decided to specialise in underwater engineering. In January 1995, having saved hard, I went to Fort William for 10 weeks to undertake an HSE Part 1 Commercial Air Diver course. Once qualified I worked in Hong Kong for 14 months, diving on the Ting Kau Bridge and other Airport Core Programme projects. On returning to the UK, I was employed on the Bakerloo Line tunnel strengthening works as a site engineer with a diving role. In 1997, further to an advertisement in NCE, I joined Babtie's group of diving engineers.

Expectations

I anticipated increasing my experience by being able to work on major projects. In addition, I expected to be required to carry out inspections involving subsequent repair or remedial work. Most importantly, I wanted to use the company's client base to ensure that my own investment in training proved worthwhile.

The reality

I have duly broadened my experience, getting involved in hydrographic and oceanographic surveys in parallel with diving activities on a variety of major projects. Unfortunately, at times it can be challenging convincing clients of the merits of paying the additional cost required to have an engineer diver carry out inspections, rather than them relying on a diver with no technical training to provide interpretations and assessments - something not contemplated on 'above water' projects. Dive times are restricted by depth and environmental factors, so a typical day may involve 10 hours on site but only one to two hours in the water. With time so limited, a good understanding of the engineering concepts involved is, of course, vital.

Advice

Diving is the mode by which you get to the work site and should not be confused with a specialisation in itself. To be fully effective you need to have the necessary experience and skills to hand. The work is not glamourous and training is expensive. If you find out afterwards that you don't like working in sewage effluent, that you are claustrophobic or prone to sea sickness, it is a lot of money wasted. Still, if you like working under pressure, it's a top job.

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