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Working lives

Julia Hutt, 29, a project engineer at Leeds City Council's department of highways and transportation, has just graduated with a BEng in civil engineering after 12 years' part-time study.

Route to job My first job after leaving school was in the water and drainage industry, where I started a parttime course to gain a BTec ONC in engineering. Since then, most of my work experience has been in highways and traffic engineering. I've worked for consultants, local authorities and at the Highways Agency, where I was an assistant route manager, responsible for assessing the impact of planning applications on the trunk road network.

With Leeds City Council I have worked as project engineer on a number of highway improvement schemes, on projects costing from a few thousand pounds to a million.

I especially enjoy working on detailed traffic analysis and writing transportation impact assessment reports.

Expectations When I first worked in a highways office I had not contemplated the complexity of the analysis and design of highway pavements.

This gave me a real interest for the subject. I enjoy the detailed research needed to design a safe and effective scheme. I was quite nervous when my first scheme went on site, particularly when the machinery started demolishing the existing highway.

The reality After weeks of apprehension, seeing my first job completed - this new, improved road layout - gave me a great feeling of satisfaction.

I have been working on a contract basis for the past four years. This has enabled me to gain more experience and work on a variety of projects. My current position, as project engineer for several traffic calming schemes within the Leeds area, involves the feasibility and design of each scheme, consultations, site supervision and financial management.

Advice I didn't expect it to be easy working in a predominately male environment. However, apart from the odd occasion, everyone I have worked with has been fully supportive and encouraging. Studying part time while working full time was extremely hard. I think you need to be 100% committed to do it. I would encourage any female to venture into civil engineering, it is both a rewarding and challenging career.

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