“I’ve always been interested in building things,” says Ajen Limbu, a second year undergraduate on the BEng Civil Engineering course. “Even when I was at school, I would enter Lego competitions where you had to construct something that could answer a particular challenge – I find that sort of thing really exciting.”
It’s that passion, and a desire to help people through problem-solving and design, that has drawn Ajen to civil engineering. And that in turn has led the 20-year-old to Plymouth, home to some of the most iconic civil engineering monuments, such as Smeaton’s Lighthouse and Brunel’s bridge spanning the River Tamar.
“When you turn on a tap in the morning, the pipe system that brings you your water has been created by civil engineers,” he says. “The roads you drive to work on have been designed by civil engineers to ensure they are flat and have the right surface. It’s a profession that enables you to help people on a really wide scale.”
And it’s here in Plymouth that Ajen has been afforded a remarkable opportunity – to be personally mentored by Lockheed Martin’s former CEO, Stephen Ball. Stephen, a graduate and honorary doctorate from Plymouth, was introduced to Ajen through the Development Office, and the two hit it off immediately.
They now have weekly hour-long calls, where Ajen has an opportunity to explore issues around leadership, problem-solving and communication, and gain a remarkable insight into how Stephen would handle different situations.
“It’s been great – he’s really helped me throughout the year,” Ajen says. “To have an hour of his time every week, when he is so busy, is a real privilege. He’s really helped me focus upon communication, touching upon neurolinguistic programming, and adopting a positive frame of mind. It’s given me a great deal of confidence, and as a result, I have pushed myself into project management tasks and have spoken in front of audiences.”
In addition to being mentored by Stephen, Ajen, who was born in Brunei and moved to the UK at the age of five via a spell in Nepal, also received a scholarship of £4,500 to support his studies.
With the launch of the Tamar Engineering Fund later this year, supported by Stephen Ball, the University is taking steps to address the acknowledged lack of engineers in the UK. Supported by an official University campaign, orchestrated by the Development Office, it will aim to support and encourage students to enrol on engineering degrees.