Route to job
After the French equivalent of A Levels, I studied mathematics and physics for three years in what is known in France as preparatory classes. I was then able to the pass exams which allowed me to enter ENSIMEV (National Engineering School of Mechanics and Thermodynamics of Valenciennes). I spent three years there studying mechanics and thermodynamics. As part of my final year, I had to do a five month industrial placement.
That is how I started at Mott MacDonald. After my placement, I was offered a job there and decided to stay.
I was told before starting my placement I would be involved in smoke and fire calculations.
The firm was developing tools to help with simulations as well as visualisation. Therefore I expected to be involved in this development process. Although I am a mechanical engineer, I have been programming since I was seven years old and this was a unique opportunity to apply my programming knowledge to the subjects I studied at school.
I actually started working on STEPS (Simulator of Transient Evacuation & Pedestrian movementS), our people movement model. I was in charge of converting it from an Algol 68 program running on Macintosh to a C++ one running on PC. After this job had been completed, I started building other applications such as a virtual reality package (Modeller + Viewer) and a CFD post-processor.
I am now mainly in charge of maintaining and upgrading these tools, as well as developing some new ones. I am also involved in the STEPS sales process (the official release should take place before the end of the year).
It is actually quite difficult for me to give any advice to people who would like to do this job.
Although I had always been interested in software development (and did a lot in my free time) my credentials make me a mechanical engineer. If I had not worked for Mott MacDonald at the beginning of my career, I would probably have done things differently - mechanical engineer at work, software developer at home. The only advice I can give is if there is something you really want to do, look for the right opportunity, and when it shows up, do not miss it.