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Working lives

Andrew Parks, 33, is managing partner of the special contracts division at Abbey Pynford, the specialist contractor responsible for successfully moving the Belle Toute lighthouse.

Route to job

After graduating in civil engineering from Plymouth Polytechnic in 1989, I joined Cementation Piling & Foundations and embarked on a structured training scheme with a view to becoming a chartered member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. While there I designed piles and retaining walls using several design packages for various piling systems and ground engineering techniques, within complex ground conditions. I also designed precast, bored, CFA, driven cast in situ, mini piles, contiguous/secant pile walls and diaphragm walls. I worked on site, supervising and eventually managing the installation of such systems on numerous projects.

Expectations

After three years with Cementation, I applied for a post with Abbey Pynford with a view to developing its market in restricted access and low-headroom piling The company provides a large range of specialist techniques including restricted access and low head room piling, the creation of basements within existing buildings, and the jacking and moving of structures - in addition to a core business of insurance-related underpinning works. I saw the opportunity to develop a range of specialist piling techniques and was taken on to do exactly this. The post offered an opportunity to extend my experience into RC work and specialist foundation work. It also provided an opening to develop my ability as a manager of projects and people, as well as progressing my engineering experience.

Reality

Together with two other partners, I am responsible for £3M turnover in specialist works alone, involving perhaps 50 projects per year.

Involvement in all these works can be at any stage from initial enquiry to design, through to managing the works on site and agreeing the final account.

Advice

Keep your options open, at least in the early years. I have found that it takes some time to get to know yourself and define what you want.

Only by actually working in different environments have I gained an impression of which direction I want to go. The Belle Toute lighthouse presented a good example of civil engineering working in society and gave me a great sense of achievement.

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