Jeremiah Fahy, who recently started a master's while working, wants to talk about the benefit of part-time study and how it can reignite the passion for civil engineering.
It can be easy to get comfortable once you've been in one place or one company for too long, to take the foot off the gas, to lose some of that drive and work ethic you had when you first started out. That’s definitely what happened to me.
I'd been working for five years with my current employer, CJ O'Shea, the same employer I'd joined straight after graduating with my Bsc in Civil Engineering, and they had been (and still are) great to me. I'd got to work on amazing projects, with great and talented people, and my career was progressing in the right direction to ensure a senior management position could be on my horizon sooner rather than later.
By all accounts, I should've been very pleased, and I was. However, that wasn't the full story. I knew I'd become somewhat comfortable, working with people I knew well, and doing projects that while presenting their own challenges still were not wildly different from what had come before.
As such, I was seeing this in my motivation and passion for work - it wasn’t there anymore.
Losing my motivation - and doing something about it
This is when I knew I needed something more. I had (apologies to my current employer) considered whether I needed to change jobs or to move somewhere new.
However, with these thoughts, I critiqued them as easily as they came to mind. My job was great, to leave could be a huge mistake and I knew the projects and the opportunities they had coming up in London were on par with anything I could get anywhere else.
Then the other thought, to move location. My family's here, my friends are here, to move without considering any of that could've been a huge mistake also, both personally and professionally.
I started to think about what I really liked and enjoyed, and that's learning about civil engineering, and by that, I mean any aspect of it: hydraulics, structures, geotechnics.
I knew I loved the subject and it was in that knowledge that I began to look for further study opportunity. It was then that I found the part-time study option at UEL (University of East London), to undertake for a master's in civil engineering.
I distinctly remember reading the module list and getting excited and giddy at the prospect of sinking my teeth into all of them, before realising quickly I could only take one per term and so would have to choose.
Having my cake and eating it
The part-time study option was perfect for me, as I didn't want to sacrifice career progression or my financial stability to undertake the study. I knew I had to be pragmatic.
However, part-time with UEL allowed me to have my cake and eat it, too. When I started my first module, it was the immediate realisation that this was what I was missing, continuing my development and learning of the industry was what I really enjoyed.
It took work. I had one day of lectures per week which ran from, 1pm to 8pm. Before attending those lectures, I agreed with my employer that I would go to work (starting at 8am) in the mornings before, to ensure site works were arranged and running smoothly.
This made the uni days a little bit longer than I would've liked. But the reward was well worth it. The learning helped me regain my passion for the industry and has helped me apply myself fully both to my study and back at work.
Winning a national prize
This additional work came to fruition in my second term of university when undertaking the module ‘Design in Steel and Concrete'.
The coursework aspect of the module consisted of a structural design competition run by the ‘Concrete Centre'. Between me and my group members, we managed to win the internal UEL competition before submitting to the Concrete Centre to win the Sustainability prize nationally.
Along with winning I made good friends with my group members and really enjoyed the whole experience.
Part-time or distance-learning can be a great opportunity to reapply yourself to subjects you're passionate about, while paying the bills and continuing your career progression.
It's helped me pursue the subject I love and has helped me progress both personally and professionally. I'm about to begin my second year of study, and I can’t wait to get back at it.