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Insights On the job learning that gave me a real advantage in my final year

My name is Waityng, and I'm currently a graduate engineer at AtkinsRéalis, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. Right now, I'm based out of the structures team in London. At the time of my summer placement, I was an undergraduate at UCL, majoring in Civil Engineering.

Photo of Waityng smiling towards the camera

I've always loved the world of STEM.

Since I was in high school, I've always chosen science subjects as they allow me to better appreciate the world around us. I knew I wanted to do something which would enable me to 'see' my contribution. Like being an engineer who played a role in designing buildings which can be seen and appreciated by the public. Or a doctor who helped sick people get better. Not being able to make up my mind, I did a placement in a clinic and an engineering company and the rest is history.

It was exactly what I needed.

I did a 12-week summer placement with AtkinsRéalis in the London Structures team. At AtkinsRéalis, I was applying the design knowledge I gained at university into a real-world setting. I enjoyed the experience of working collaboratively with a team of talented engineers to complete large scale projects.

The support to settle in

I was assigned a buddy who helped me adjust to the work environment. She was someone who I could ask any non-engineering related questions. Like where's the best place to buy lunch? Besides that, AtkinsRéalis has an open plan office, which means that you get to mingle with people from different teams. During my placement, I met many other placement students from different teams, who are now people that I work collaboratively with or people who I still keep in touch. The friendships developed surely helped me adjust better, as I felt quite intimidated at the start.

12 weeks that expanded my learning

During my placement, I was working on a station redevelopment project. My task involved designing columns for blast loading and coming up with solutions to strengthen a bridge deck. I was able to apply the structural analysis and concrete design knowledge I gained from university, and using it in a real-life scenario has enhanced my understanding. It was also great to be learning things ahead of my university syllabus!

Learning industry software gave me an advantage.

I also had the opportunities to learn how to use several powerful software platforms, such as Autodesk Robot and Navisworks, which allowed me to model the station roof under different load combinations. With the head start on the software, I was able to use them again for my final year project at university with ease.

Everyone was always willing to lend a hand.

I was encouraged to raise a question if in doubt even though it might appear trivial as it could help someone else in the team. The more I asked, the more confident I felt. A graduate engineer on the same project was always there to help me out. However, when he was busy, I was able to approach anyone in the office, no matter how senior they were. Colleagues would go the extra mile by sharing with me references to help me understand the principles better.

Finding my path to an amazing career

After completing an enjoyable placement at AtkinsRéalis, I was confident that becoming a structural engineer was the right choice for me. In AtkinsRéalis, knowledge is everywhere. CPD’s are held every week to allow everyone to stay updated and relevant in our field. The Graduate Development Programme provides a lot of support for early professionals like myself. With that in mind, I knew that starting my career here was the right choice. Upon completing my 12-week placement, I got the return offer to join the graduate team which eased my mind during my final year of university.

I was made to feel like a valued team member.

From day one, I was involved in every way possible, like a real part of the project team. I was invited to attend meetings. One was with an external architect, which helped me understand the importance of collaboration in the station's structural design. Another time was with senior stakeholders at TfL, which was definitely memorable as it was my first ever client meeting. I also attended the summer staff party, which was one of the highlights of my placement as it coincided with my last day on placement.