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Working lives

Shammy Puri, 53, is technical director, water and environmental projects for East Europe and Central Asia at Scott Wilson

Route to job I completed a first degree, an MSc in engineering geology and hydrogeology, at the University of Warsaw in 1970, and then took a second masters, in civil engineering, at the University of Birmingham. After this, I became an assistant lecturer at University College London, followed by five years at the Southern Water Authority, 10 years with Binnie & Partners, and a year with Wimpey.

I joined Scott Wilson 12 years ago and was pretty much thrown in at the deep end on overseas projects in Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, the US and Jordan. It was a rapid learning process. I have always refused to walk away from challenges and have learnt from my mistakes.

Expectations Before joining Scott Wilson, I expected that it would provide a supportive and co-operative work environment, dedicated to technical excellence. I knew that my career progression would be based on my performance.

The reality Today's commercial reality dulls too much idealism and reveals the need for a combination of technical competence and financial acumen. Civil engineering education in my day was not geared to this and I have had to learn the hard way.

Having done so, professional satisfaction comes naturally, and I have an established business portfolio of challenging and interesting work in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

These projects called for a combination of diplomacy, tact and technical competence, the latter almost invariably being most important.

Through my leadership of the International Commission on Transboundary Aquifers, I also contribute to converting technical expertise into practical values for a long term sustainable society.

Advice Ensure you have good technical competence, maintain a healthy scepticism of the 'business-speak' jargon of the new economy, and dedicate yourself to step-by-step increases in responsibility and selffulfilment. Become fluent in at least two other languages, be prepared to travel, and do not take 'no' for an answer!

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