My name is Kristen. I am a Fire Engineer, however I am currently on sabbatical studying for a PhD.
How did you get your current job?
I was a little cheeky when I got my current Fire Engineering job. I was looking at moving to the UK from Australia, so I googled companies in the UK that did Fire Engineering and sent them my CV. I was looking for something outside London, so I was really lucky that there was an opening at just my level of experience in the Glasgow office of one of the companies I contacted. After a telephone interview, they offered me the job and I’ve now been with them over 5 years!
I got my PhD position in a more traditional way. I saw it advertised on one of the industry mailing lists. It was a particular project that really piqued my interest, so I applied. The position came with a scholarship, so it was quite a formal process, and I was a little surprised, but very pleased to get it! My company have been really understanding and have allowed me to take the three years as a sabbatical (I’m sure they can see the value in the project too).
What does an average day look like?
As a fire engineer, I’m working on at least half a dozen projects at any one time, so there isn’t really a typical day. Each project is different, but there are some things they all have in common. I need to be in good contact with the design teams on each project to make sure we are all heading in the same direction, so a lot of my day is spent in meetings, on the phone and (of course) on email. Once we have a design, I need to assess it for fire safety using building regulations and various engineering assessment methods; from simple equations to large computer simulations. And, of course, everything needs to be written up in a report that can be submitted to the authorities so that everyone is happy with the safety of the building and the whole process is documented.
The university has been quite a change of pace for me. Now, I only have my own project to work on, and nobody is chasing me for anything (or at least, not nearly as often). Of course, I get lots of support to help make sure I’m on track, but I need to be a lot more self-motivated.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I loved maths and science at school, and to be able to use those skills to create something is great. It really motivates me to be able to see real buildings that I have been involved with and to know I helped make them better. I also love the variety of the projects and the people I get to work with. I’m definitely not stuck behind a desk all the time.
Are there any downsides?
Deadlines. Actually, I find I am quite motivated by meeting deadlines, but sometimes they can be a bit unrealistic, which is a stressful. This is part of working closely with the design team for each project, so that everyone know what reasonable times frames are for each stage.
To be honest, that probably says more about my time keeping ability than anything else. Now that I’m doing my own research and don’t have people chasing me all the time, I think my time keeping skills are really going to be put to the test. Hopefully I’ve picked up enough working as an engineer to make it as a researcher.
What did you want to be as a child?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a teacher; I loved learning (and still do). As I got older and became aware of more options I wanted to be a scientist and eventually an engineer. I think I knew fairly early on that the practical application of all the cool stuff I was learning was what I wanted to do, it just took me a while to find the name for the job.
If you could do any other job, what would you choose?
The only other job I have really considered is science journalism. I love what they do, taking the amazing things science comes up with and writing about them in a way that is accessible to everyone.