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Interested in becoming a structural engineer? Find out more from Anna

Interested in becoming a structural engineer? Find out more from Anna

Anna McMullen, I currently work as a Structural Engineer for Beca in Tauranga. 

What did you want to be when you were 16?
When I was 16 I knew I wanted to be an Engineer because I enjoyed Physics and Maths at High School. I also liked Woodwork and making things so thought Engineering would be a good combination of these. I didn't know too much about Engineering and had no idea what type of Engineer I wanted to become.

What did you end up doing when you left school?
When I left Tauranga Girls’ College, I moved to a student hall of residence in Christchurch and studied Engineering at the University of Canterbury.

Describe a day in your life at work:
Currently, I am doing construction monitoring for a project that is mid-way through construction. I spend a lot of the day talking to clients, answering questions from the contractors that arise throughout construction and sending sketches to the contractors to ensure they can continue construction without delay. A couple of times per week I go out to the site and review the construction, to ensure it is in accordance with our structural drawings. When a job is in the design phase before construction, I spend time at my desk doing structural design calculations and using design programmes on the computer. I have Senior Engineers sitting near me that I can always go to with questions or for advice if I am unsure. I usually enjoy taking a short break mid-morning to enjoy a coffee with colleagues, and at lunchtime I spend about half an hour in the staff room catching up with friends from different sections around the office.

Why do you love your job/career?
I love my career because it is a good mixture of technical design work and people and client interaction. I also work with a great and supportive team of colleagues and in a fun office environment, which I think is just as important as the job itself. Structural Engineering is challenging as well as satisfying and there is always more to learn.

How did you get into your career?
Straight after graduating, I began my career working for a structural consultancy in Wellington, where I worked mostly on residential buildings. After working there for 15 months I went travelling overseas for a year. I moved back to Tauranga after my travels and started working at Beca in January 2017. Beca is a large, multidisciplinary engineering company where I work mostly on commercial buildings. I think it's good to try a range of specialities within your field early on in your career, in order to get a taster for what you enjoy the most.

What qualifications did you study?
I studied Civil Engineering (Honours) majoring in Structural Engineering. I also took some German papers at University.

Do you have any advice for getting into your sector?
It is important to work hard at university and gain a solid understanding of the engineering concepts you are taught. I would also advise gaining life skills and experiences through things such as travel or cultural and sporting involvement. Employers are interested in people that can add value to the team environment by bringing with them a range of skills and experiences.

What do you wish you had done differently?
During the university holidays, I wish I had worked at a building or construction site as part of a summer job role. This would have helped me to gain some more practical knowledge about how things are built, which is important to know when you are doing structural design.

What would you say to your teenage self about defining your future?
When it comes to defining your future career, I think it is equally important to study towards something that you enjoy and also something that has job prospects and opportunities. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, things will evolve as you go through university or through your career, you may end up working in a job that you currently don’t even know exists. 

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See how Anna became a structural engineer

Anna studied, travelled and then returned to the bay to begin working for Beca in 2017. Find out more about her career journey here