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Holly Smith

Holly Smith

Graduate Civil Engineer, Skanska


Construction, Rail


United Kingdom
My highlights

Selected as an ICE President’s Future Leader 2019/20

Winner of Royal Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Leadership Scholarship 2015

ICE QUEST Undergraduate Scholarship Winner 2013

How I became a civil engineer

In sixth form, I undertook A-Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Physics. Alongside this, I also took part in the EDT’s Engineering Education Scheme and Headstart at the University of Bristol.

After the Headstart course, I fell in love with Bristol so I went on to study my MEng Civil Engineering degree at the university.

During university, I was sponsored by Taylor Woodrow through the ICE’s QUEST Undergraduate Scholarship. That gave me the opportunity to complete three site based summer placements, two of which were on Crossrail at Whitechapel Station.

After university, I took a 6-month break to travel around India and South East Asia. Then I joined Skanska as a graduate engineer in January 2018, where I have recently completed Skanska’s Graduate Development Scheme and I am working towards my Chartership.

It’s pretty amazing to be a part of shaping a piece of the world - whether it’s constructing skyscrapers or building new transport infrastructure, civil engineering has something for everyone.

A typical day in your life

It is difficult to say what a normal day is!

Typically as a site engineer, it is an early start at 7:30am for the daily site briefing to help co-ordinate all the works. During the day, you’ll have a combination of time on site and in the office.

On site, you help with checking whether your section is being built to design whilst maintaining good quality, health and safety and ensuring environmental compliance. Then when you get back to the office, you’ll be reporting on whether you are delivering on time and on budget, with the day finishing around 5 or 6pm.

Although it can seem like a long day, as you are active and constantly solving problems, the time really flies.

Holly Smith: HS2
Holly Smith: HS2

We asked Holly…

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

One of my favourite parts of working in construction is how strong the team spirit is; it is really infectious. Individually everyone has a small part to play, but when all of those elements come together to build something, I’d say the buzz is pretty incomparable.

which civil engineering myth(s) you would like to bust?

That a career civil engineering is boring and just about maths and physics! There is so much more to it. Of course, the technical principles are very important, but they are just the foundation of your knowledge to build your career on.

As a career, civil engineering is so varied and there are many opportunities to try something different but still be a civil engineer. You could work in design or in construction, or on a multitude of different types of infrastructure, or at home or abroad. The possibilities are endless!

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

I grew up living in the suburbs of Boston, USA. At the time, the city was undergoing the most complex urban transportation project ever undertaken in the U.S. called the Central Artery/Tunnel project, known locally as the ‘Big Dig’.

I remember my parents taking me to the Big Dig exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science, which was the first point I can remember being interested in construction and the science behind it.

As I still visit the city regularly after relocating to the UK, I have been able to witness the transformational impact of the project on the quality of life in the city, which has inspired me to become a civil engineer.

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

Having had a background of working on mega projects, in the future I would like the opportunity to work on an international development project abroad. I love the idea of using my engineering skills to improve the lives of others, especially where that kind of expertise is limited.

what about being a civil engineer inspires you?

I like the unpredictable nature of the job! Construction is so complex that everyday there will be challenges that arise that you didn’t plan for. You have to think on your feet and come up with the best solution accounting for a variety of constraints. The constant problem solving definitely keeps the day-to-day really engaging!

would you recommend a career in civil engineering?

In what other profession can you have those ‘I built that’ moments? It’s pretty amazing to be a part of shaping a piece of the world - whether it’s constructing skyscrapers, building new transport infrastructure, supplying essential utilities or building bridges. I think there’s something for everyone in civil engineering.

Whitechapel station - proposed ticket hall. Image credit: Crossrail

Crossrail C512 Whitechapel Station Main Station Works