Tim Hou

Tim Hou

Civil Engineer with Mott MacDonald

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Project management, structural, geotechnical

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

I studied Maths, Physics, Economics and Media Studies for A levels, and then completed my master’s degree in civil engineering at Surrey University. I also was awarded a Surrey ICE Scholarship allowing me to work with Mott MacDonald in the summers and during my placement year. Since then I have joined Mott MacDonald full time as a graduate working in the foundations and geotechnics department.

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because...

You will have so much fun! I love civil engineering because there’s never a dull moment and you never do the same thing twice. It’s also a very collaborative industry, which requires lots of disciplines to work together to solve a problem.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some extremely knowledgeable engineers and they have all taken time to explain theories and concepts to help expand my understanding. It’s also extremely gratifying to see a project that you have designed and worked on take shape into its physical structure and you can be proud to say, “I helped build that!”.

What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

The biggest thing that I ever created was an entire village! I enjoyed making models to the instructions, but after I had got bored, I broke everything down and was able to build my own structures.

I loved the creativity of building different structures and trying to understand how it could all be constructed. It certainly took me a while but was very rewarding to have completed it!

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

The first person to inspire me to become a civil engineer was my dad, who is also a civil engineer. From a young age he showed me time lapses of various projects that he had been working on and I was fascinated to see it all come together and amazed at how it all worked.

I also saw how no two projects were the same and the true breadth and range of civil engineering. The more and more he talked about it the more excited I was to join the industry!

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also …

An officer in the army cadets! I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the cadets at school, learning a whole host of interesting skills as well as developing my softer skills such as leadership and teamwork.

I honestly think that the cadets really helped to develop my character and advance skills that can’t be taught. I have been volunteering as an officer for the last seven years and it is extremely rewarding to enable young people to also enjoy the experience I had.

I am also grateful that Mott MacDonald have recently demonstrated their commitment towards the armed forces by signing the armed forces covenant and providing me with their support and enabling me to volunteer alongside my day job.

A typical day in your life

I start my day by catching up with the design team and identifying which tasks should take priority. Given that this often involves teams based all over the world it is key that everyone is on the same page.

I then often attend meetings with the client to provide clarity on the technical aspects of the project as well as manage any commercial matters.

After lunch, I am often working on calculations or modelling structures, contributing towards our design solution. Additionally, when not working on the project I am either working as ECP Safety Lead within Mott MacDonald or as the CSR coordinator for our Croydon office, to themes I am extremely passionate about.

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It’s extremely gratifying to see a project that you have designed and worked on take shape into its physical structure and you can be proud to say “I helped build that!”.

Tim Hou

Civil Engineer with Mott MacDonald

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

One of the best things about civil engineering is that you are constantly learning. The industry is incredibly complex and broad, which means that there is always more to develop your understanding.

It’s also rapidly changing and advancing meaning that there is always more to learn and understand. You only have to look back 10 years to see how much the construction industry has changed and it is exciting to see where it is advancing next!

What’s the one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

I didn’t appreciate the variety of work that civil engineers can engage in and contribute towards. To demonstrate the point, out of my cohort from university none of us are doing the same types of jobs – and yet we have all gone through the same path!

This variety is great, as it means that you can always be doing something different and apply your skills and knowledge to different problems. It also means that you are working with such a diverse group of people with different skill sets and specialisms.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

In the past I would have loved to have worked on some of the aqueducts built by the Romans, such as the Aqueduct of Segovia. To think that these innovative solutions were built around the first century and some are still being used today is a real testament to their construction.

One of the reasons that they lasted for so long, is that the Romans understood the importance not just of building the structure well but that maintenance is also key – at one time employing over 700 people just to maintain their aqueduct network. It would also be interesting to see the differences in management and construction methods to the industry today.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

That civil engineers only work on bridges! They work on so much more and one of the key messages that I try to convey when going into schools is that all you need to do is look around and you will see numerous things made possible by civil engineers.

Something as simple as your own home will have required a civil engineer’s input, not to mention all the infrastructure that connects into it. By helping the public understand the reach of engineering, hopefully this will encourage more students to help meet the demand for civil engineers.

Anything else? i.e. personal causes, hobbies.

Spending most of my working days in the office I love to stay active when I can, either running, going to the gym, or playing touch rugby or squash. I also love to go and see musicals and so am spoiled for choice in the West End! If I have any spare time, I enjoy filming and editing videos which has long been a passion of mine.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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