I am 23 and I have just graduated from Brunel University with a master’s degree in civil engineering.

What influenced you when you were at school?

Throughout my school life, I have always veered towards maths and science subjects at school. This stemmed from a teacher who gave me courage and self-belief when she told me that I was good at maths at the age of seven!

Another teacher suggested engineering as a career choice when I was 14 – again giving me the confidence to enter what is still viewed by many as a male-dominated industry.

What was it like studying engineering at university?

Throughout university I was sponsored by Costain, during which time I completed 3 placements including an industrial placement year.

Undertaking these placements gave me a hands-on, unique insight into the practicalities of working on site in a way that university never could. Not only did it provide me with good practical experience but also confidence through the support of my colleagues – many of whom I still keep in contact with now.

How can we encourage others to study science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subjects?

The best way in my opinion to attract young people into the industry is through the sharing of experiences and real life projects. Since the age of 16, I have visited different construction sites from wastewater treatment works to 70m deep tunnels and spoken to many influential people who have worked all over the world on massive projects which are personal to me. This has really helped showcase to me the vast number of opportunities available to a young engineer.

What careers advice would you give other young people?

Getting first hand experiences in the workplace have played a massive part in getting me to where I am today. Beginning with my placement with Costain, I went on to work experience with Mott Macdonald at the age of 15, then paid work experience with a solar consultancy company at the age of 16, from site visits to volunteering events with STEM Sussex, Crossrail Young Engineers, university events and society committee roles.

I think doing these extra-curricular activities certainly makes you more employable but also helps tremendously in establishing people skills – a crucial skill when you interact with 30+ construction people on a daily basis.

I feel fortunate that I have chosen a career path that I find both challenging and rewarding, which also presents the opportunity to work abroad. This drives me towards encouraging other young people towards a career in civil engineering.

Parental and educational support is crucial for success. Inevitably, I think only you can determine your own destiny.

This article is taken from an interview with Francesca Loader, and has been reproduced with the express permission of STEM Sussex. For advice about the subjects covered above and to read the article in full, visit STEM Sussex. As an outreach department based at the University of Brighton, STEM Sussex works with employers and schools to inspire the next generation to pursue STEM Careers.