Current employer: Environment Agency

Current job title: Project Manager

Current location: Liverpool

“Studying at the University of Plymouth changed my life. I had one of the best years of my life and developed my passion for the water industry, something that I was not able to do back in Spain, where the average annual temperature is 30’C. Four years later I am working at the Environment Agency to deliver sustainable flood defences schemes while working towards my chartership. 

Silvia - MSc Coastal Engineering graduate
Silvia - MSc Coastal Engineering graduate
Silvia - MSc Coastal Engineering graduate
Silvia - MSc Coastal Engineering graduate

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After graduating in 2016 I joined the Environment Agency. I have been seconded to different departments and companies around the country, enrolled in many different duties; from structural inspector, ECC-Site Supervisor, Assistant Site Engineer, Flood defence designer and ECC-Project Manager & Contract Administrator.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

I graduated from my civil engineering undergraduate programme in Spain in 2015, but it was my masters in Plymouth that gave me a clear understanding of what I am really passionate about; working by the coast, producing documents for first time that followed an assurance process, investigating and innovating new approaches for providing sustainable structures and supporting the ambition of a net zero carbon future.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

I think civil engineering and the technical element of the work is fundamental to design safe, innovative, and improved concept designs. However now I understand that it is not just about design and construction, but changing the traditional ways of doing things to achieve a sustainable future. I have enjoyed working in on projects that encourage improved practice through government investment in a sustainable procurement approach.

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

Language has been my biggest barrier. As a native Spanish speaker I have not always found it easy to express myself in English and my writing skills have added an additional challenge to achieving chartership. However obstacles just make sweeter victories!

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I got several local awards for representing the Environment Agency internationally in France, for improving the Building Information Modelling tool used by the EA, and for bringing the graduate community together in the south and central England. These were great achievements and felt very exciting.

Last month my work was mentioned in the North West EA magazine for building a sustainable Reno mattress at Croston Dam despite the working window constraints, it got the final sign off approval by the panel engineer, which I was very happy about.

I have designed several flood defences that used a low carbon footprint, and worked with contractors and partners to implement a H&S system of work on site. Recognition of your work is always incentivising, but the satisfaction of improvement is a great feeling.

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

Do not get stressed about not knowing exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life, things will come along or change to the right path. And if you really know what you want to do and find someone that tell you that you are not good enough show them that they are wrong, perseve and work hard to achieve your goals.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I learnt from professionals and very well recognised engineers about coastal engineering, offshore renewable energy, modelling and so many other useful technical skills that helped me later on in my career. It was a pleasure to work with such supportive and knowledgeable mentors.

The coastal engineering programme supported me to write formal engineering reports and to work as a team for the first time in English.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

Well…. not everything was about studying, Plymouth is such a special place, from the Barbican to the Lighthouse. I met such amazing people from all around the globe that I am still in contact with. The unhealthy kebabs at 1am, the beautiful fish and chips near the Aquarium. I was introduced to Salsa dancing for the first time on the Barbican in spring 2016 and now I could not imagine a world without it.

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I do. Now they are living in Brazil, Galicia and Barcelona, but it is always a great excuse to spend a few days abroad.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with University of Plymouth , and why?

Definitely, it may change your life like it changed mine.

Alderney - Island in Guernsey (OCtober 2002)