Nicola Robins – MEng (Hons) Civil and Coastal Engineering graduate

Current employer: AECOM

Current job title: Graduate Coastal Engineer

Current location: Liverpool

“The key piece of advice I would give is to try and gain as much experience as you can. It doesn’t have to be a year in industry; a summer placement or a few weeks a year work experience will really make a difference when you start applying for graduate jobs.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Before I finished university I had a graduate job lined up which I started in mid-September. Since then I have registered for my chartership with the Institution of Civil Engineers, which most firms will pay for to complete, and I have completed the first phase of AECOM’s graduate development programme which is designed to help with career progression and charterships. So far, I have worked on the design of a coastal footpath, designed scour protection for bridge abutments, and helped to write scope of works for tenders.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Initially, I turned down the sponsorship that I was offered because of its ties with a specific engineering discipline and office location. However, after discussions with the office manager on what I wanted for a career, they were able to offer the sponsorship without the direct ties. This allowed me to progress into the coastal engineering area which I favour.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

The key piece of advice I would give is to try and gain as much experience as you can. It doesn’t have to be a year in industry; a summer placement or a few weeks a year work experience will really make a difference when you start applying for graduate jobs. I also found that continuing to have a part-time job during my first two years at university helped me to gain my placement, because I could show that I could balance my time well between activities.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

In the first and last year we did an integrated module with other engineering disciplines. This helped with team working and also helped me to learn to work within other areas that might work differently to what I am used. The course also offers a spread of modules, whilst the different modes of assessment helped in the work place: for instance, you might have to complete a set of technical calculations one day and the next, a scope of work documents.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

Yes, I undertook my placement with AECOM. After completing my year I was offered sponsorship for the last two years of my course, and it also allowed me to complete a summer placement. This all lead to my current graduate job where I had the option of different engineering disciplines as well as office locations across the country. AECOM also have offices worldwide where I would have been able to apply if I so wished.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth? 

I really enjoyed doing the HSE Scuba diving option that was available for my course, and would recommend it to any student. Although, I haven’t ended up working as a professional diver, the experience of dealing with codes of practices and strict regulations helped me to obtain my job, and I will also be able to use the knowledge of working underwater when supervising dive surveys which I should be completing in the new year.