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Working lives

Philip Wall, 46, is a senior engineer with tunnelling consultant Donaldson Associates. He is engineering representative on the Kentish Tow n cable tunnel in north London.

Route to the job

After graduating from Kingston Polytechnic in 1978, I went to the largest underground complex in Europe - Dinorwic pumped storage scheme in North Wales. I moved to Falconbrook relief sewer in London in 1979, and following this I worked for contractor Murphy from 1982-85, where I gained a variety of experience from site engineer to sub agent. I started with Manchester City Council's main drainage department in March 1986, and in April 1988 joined TML at the Channel Tunnel. In 1992 I enrolled on a part-time MSc at Kingston University, and my first opportunity as an engineer's representative came in 1994, working for RKL on a drainage scheme in Bangor. I finished my MSc project while employed by Aoke Soletanche.

Expectations

I joined Donaldson Associates in 1997 because I wanted continuous settled work. After a period in the design office I started work as the engineer's representative at National Grid's Fawley/Chilling tunnel across Southampton Water. In 1999 I took on the same role at the Kentish Town Cable Tunnel for a 275kV diversion over 2km.

I expected this to be relatively straightforward, except for the 40m radius curves, where I thought work might slow down.

I also expected noise and traffic management to cause problems.

Reality

The work included liaison with all the services for diversion works, local residents associations and others. Traffic management was tight at times and the tight curves in the tunnels proved every bit as challenging as expected. Time was always against everyone. National Grid, however, never allowed time constraints to compromise safety.

Advice

Any professional career in the construction industry should have some adventure - and working as an engineer's representative certainly provides this. Think seriously about opportunities that may not be part of your plan. Most experiences are good if you learn from them.

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