I did Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry at school, because I was good at them but also really enjoyed them. I wanted to study a numerate and science-based degree at university, but I wanted to use the skills and knowledge I would gain in applications that would give tangible benefits to society, rather than be in a lab doing experiments, so Engineering seemed an obvious choice. I've always liked buildings and bridges: big things that you can look at, touch and walk into, but I hadn't decided to do Civil Engineering when I left school.Before I went to university, I did the 'Year in Industry', an Engineering Development Trust scheme that puts you in touch with engineering companies that take gap year students. I worked for Cambridge Consultants and that introduced me to the idea of working for a consultancy, which I liked, and Electronic Engineering, which I didn't like so much! I liked the general engineering course at Cambridge as it gave a really good understanding of the concepts of a wide range of engineering topics. The work is tough, but rewarding when you finally understand these concepts.
I did the MIT exchange in my third year. MIT is so different to Cambridge, better in some ways, worse in others. It was great to experience both systems and have a break from Cambridge for a while. Of course, when I returned, I realised all the things that make Cambridge really special that you tend to forget when you're here.I always took the opportunity to work in the long vacations between years at university, and when possible combine it with overseas travel.
After my second year I went to work for Scott Wilson in Malawi. Engineering challenges in international development is still something that interests me a great deal and something I hope to work on at some point in my career. After my third year I worked for two structural engineering consultancies: Whitbybird in Cambridge, and Ramboll in Denmark. I decided designing buildings was interesting, challenging and what I wanted to do.
I proposed my own fourth year project: I looked at the design of a small scale wind turbine used in developing countries, promoted by a charity called ITDG (now Practical Action). I built a prototype for the project which was a real challenge and fun. After I graduated I did a volunteer placement in South Africa with a small wind farm project, helping it get off the ground.
The great thing about a summer placement is it can be like a 12 week interview, so when you are looking for a job, there isn't much persuading to do, as you're already a known quantity. I was offered a job with Whitbybird and started in October after I graduated. In the three years I've worked here I've delivered the detailed design and seen through to construction three buildings with a combined value of over £24M.
Studying at Cambridge is a great privilege and I made the most of the opportunities open to me. I managed to fit study in with singing in the College choir and being captain of my College boat club for two years. It was hard work, but you get as much, if not more, out than what you put in.