Joseph Marner, Assistant Engineer at WSP and ICE London Graduates and Students committee Vice-Chair, explains his experiences as a graduate that led to him winning the ICE London Graduate of the Year Award this year.
It was never my goal to win the ICE London Graduate of the Year award. I didn't write it down in my annual review with my manager and it wasn't in my development plan with my mentor. I certainly wouldn't have said I'd be winning awards before I'd completed my graduate scheme, if you'd asked me three years ago.
What has been a goal or a target over the last three years, though, are many voluntary, extra-curricular roles within my team at WSP and in the ICE.
Active in the professional community
One of the first things my mentor suggested I do as a recent graduate was to join the ICE Graduates and Students committee.
I remember clearly how passionately he told me about his own experience on the committee and the benefits it had brought him. I also remember quite clearly how unsure I was about joining myself; I feared I'd know nobody and waste my time if I wasn't needed!
I couldn't have been more wrong, and I'm now so glad I got involved in the group. I've come to learn that the ICE Graduates and Students (G&S) community, particularly in London, is so active, enthusiastic and driven, and its impact in the industry is something to be admired. To be involved personally has been inspiring.
After a year of attending the regular committee meetings, I took the committee role of Walking Tours Coordinator. In this role, I set up a series of free walking tours of London in summer 2018 as part of the ICE's 200th anniversary celebrations.
More recently, I've become the committee's Vice Chair for Informing Opinion, overseeing more of the committee's activities, including this year's walking tours, as well as our activities to promote the committee, major diversity and inclusion events such as INWED and ICE at London Pride, the ICE's Big Debate and engagement with government on policy issues.
Within WSP, I sit on the Rail business's "Early Career Professionals (ECP) Steering Committee".
It's a bit of a mouthful of a name, but it's an extremely valuable part of the apprentice and graduate programmes at WSP. The committee includes apprentice and graduate representatives from each region and members of senior management.
Being on this committee has been great, as we continually work to improve the schemes for everyone in the business. In the last year, I've led an initiative to improve access to support for WSP graduates preparing for ICE professional reviews, so everyone can be better prepared for this important stage-gate in any career.
The satisfying thing is knowing that the changes we make on the steering committee will improve the careers of people like us for years to come
Engaging with people beyond our profession
Although I do a lot within WSP and the industry, I find engaging with those outside our profession even more rewarding.
The walking tours I mentioned earlier ended up being such high point in the year for me, as I not only led a handful of tours to the general public myself, I also helped several friends and colleagues from the G&S committee prepare and lead tours themselves, too.
It was great for us to research and learn about the engineering in London, but it was greater still seeing so many intrigued and amazed faces in the various audiences. There was a really broad range of people on the tours, from teachers to doctors, primary school children to retirees on holiday, and we even had a few dogs!
A personal highlight, though, was talking to a 17-year-old who was deciding whether to take an engineering or medicine degree, and hearing how much more she knew about civil engineering after two hours on a tour with us.
Everything comes together eventually
As I sat back at the table after collecting the ICE London Graduate of the Year Award on stage at the awards ceremony, I was asked by someone at my table "so what did you do to win it, then?"
At first I wasn't really sure. I summarised more or less what I've explained here and I realised that, actually, all of those things that started off as small activities on the periphery of my job slowly grew and complimented each other.
Opportunities that open doors
As I said at the beginning, it was never my goal to win the ICE London Graduate of the Year award.
I did plan to get involved with ICE and my business, however, and these are all opportunities that I enjoyed and were rewarding in the end. I planned to do these roles well, so without directly intending to, I had a good variety of experience to write about when preparing my entry for the ICE London Awards this year. I'd encourage everyone who can to get involved in these sorts of extra, voluntary roles. And my advice is: if the groups, committees and roles don't exist yet, step forward and set them up!
Who knows, it might lead to an award at some point!