David Ord

Current employer: Arcadis

Current job title: Engineer

Current location: Exeter

"My placement year allowed me to see the practical side of engineering and... the practical experience I picked up during that year helped me in the next three years of the course."

I started at the University of Plymouth in September 2005, having made the decision to study there for several reasons. First and foremost, it offered the most variety of courses. I was only going to leave college with 160 points and Plymouth offered the chance to start at the bottom and progress all the way to the top. 

Another reason for choosing Plymouth was the diving option; I had never tried it before and it is a unique option. I have since progressed and am now a qualified surface supply diver. The third reason I choose Plymouth was because of the open day: I remember talking to Dave Easterbrook at the end of the day about what the course involved and what I needed to get in my exams. 

That talk was key in deciding where I went. The final reason is the location. The university is in the middle of the city, it has the train station on one side with links to the entire country, it has student housing surrounding two sides of the campus, and it has the city on the south side. To have everything within walking distance is perfect for students.

I spent my first year living in halls before moving into a student house for the rest of my studies. Following the completion of my first two years I went on to do a placement with Halcrow, now CH2M Hill, after working for them in the summer of my first year. Whilst there, I was encouraged to move up to the BEng course and subsequently the MEng – a decision which is now paying off. My placement year allowed me to see the practical side of engineering and at first, it was a novelty to hear people at work talking about things I’d learnt on the course. The practical experience I picked up during that year helped me in the next three years of the course. In 2011 I a achieved a 2:1 masters degree, having started university with little more than one AS level and two poor A levels.

During my final two years, I joined the rowing club, becoming the treasurer during my second year. As part of the committee I helped to organise two fundraising events, the first being a 24-hour row for Children In Need and the second a row across the channel from Roscoff to Plymouth. We raised almost £3,000 between the two events. Those experiences added to the skills I picked up during my studies and I would encourage everyone to join a sports club or society.

The support available from the lecturers on the course was second-to-none and they were always willing to answer questions and help you look for jobs. I saw my current job advertised through an email Hyder sent to the University which was then sent around to all final year students. I now work as a graduate engineer in the Exeter office in the Rivers, Marine and Coastal team. 

I carry out design calculations, prepare drawings, and write reports for a variety of coastal and river structures. My work is interesting and varied and I have been fortunate to find a large international consultant to work for. The coastal aspect of the course has also helped to give me some direction and I now use the design skills introduced to me on the course. I am working towards becoming fully chartered.

I would recommend Plymouth to anyone as a place to study: it has top engineering courses and is a great place to live. There are also sports clubs for everyone and there is plenty to do in and around the city.

Undergraduate civil engineering students conducting a hands-on activity in the Brunel heavy structures laboratory W14