Selina Rai – Structural Engineer – Arup
Selina is a Structural Engineer with the Buildings team at Arup. She graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2017 with a MEng in Structural Engineering and Architecture. She joined Buro Happold as a Graduate Structural Engineer and later joined Arup in 2019. After completing her IPD last year, Selina is currently preparing to sit her ICE Professional Review. After becoming chartered with the ICE, she aims to sit her IStructE Membership Exam through the Mutual Recognition agreement between the two institutions.
My journey of becoming a Chartered Engineer started even before I was working as an engineer – it was when I was still a university student. We were encouraged to become a student member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) to gain free access to online learning resources, monthly newsletters, talks and conferences. Through this, I came across the then elusive title of “Chartered Engineer” with the accompanying post-nominal letters CEng MICE and CEng MIStructE. I was intrigued. Realising that this additional professional qualification would…
- demonstrate that I have the right knowledge, skills and work experience
- instil confidence in my employers, client and the public
- put me in a stronger position when it comes to promotion, pay and getting more responsibilities on projects
…I knew this was something that I wanted to pursue. I also realised that these qualifications are recognised internationally and so would put me in good stead to work anywhere in the world. Something that the Third Culture Kid in me (I moved around different countries throughout my childhood) was eager to do in the future.
What has the process of becoming a Chartered Engineer been like so far?
As someone who is goal-oriented, having a framework of various attributes (ranging from developing a sound technical knowledge, identifying and managing risks to sustainable development) and levels of competence (knowledge, experience and ability) gave me a clear roadmap to track my initial professional development (IPD). It gave me a sense of achievement every time I ‘unlocked’ a new level. Generally, attributes were easier or harder to sign off depending on the type of project I was working on, how much responsibility I had, how much site experience was available etc. Having this structure allowed me to identify which attributes were my weaker areas and formulate a strategy of addressing it so that ultimately, I become a well-rounded competent Engineer.
As a Graduate Structural Engineer, I joined my company’s ICE Training Scheme and entered into a Training Agreement with my employer and the ICE. When I moved companies later in my career, I was able to transfer my Training Agreement to a different company using a form available on the ICE website and continue with my training. I was assigned a supervising civil engineer (SCE) and a delegated engineer (DE) who were crucial in helping me get the skills, knowledge and experience I needed to complete the IPD stage. Please note that this blog post outlines the approach that I personally took and that there are many other ways of working towards being a Chartered Engineer e.g. career appraisal, mentor supported training.
To stay on top of my IPD and keep myself accountable, I scheduled in a series of quarterly reviews with my DE as checkpoints to take stock of my progress that quarter, discuss what I had learnt and identify what I should focus on in the next quarter. I chose to communicate this using quarterly reports where I talked about my role on the projects, what I had personally contributed to or influenced, and what I had learnt from those experiences. I used visual aids such as photos, sketches and diagrams to clearly communicate certain concepts and enhance my report. This was all evidence of how I was developing the attributes so that my DE could sign it off. Although quarterly reports were my chosen method of communicating this, there are also other ways in which this could be evidenced, such as through presentations or creating matrices.
An advantage of consistently producing these reports as I progressed with my IPD was that I could reflect on my experiences with input from a more experienced engineer. This provided a continuous feedback loop – what further reading could I do to reinforce what I had learnt? Could I look at this experience from a different angle? Which attribute do I need to focus on next and how can I acquire the necessary experience to develop this? Fortunately for me, my DE and I had worked on a few projects together and my SCE was responsible for the team’s resourcing. This meant that they were able to help line up projects and tasks for me which could fill in the missing pieces. My quarterly reports also proved to be extremely helpful when, after completing my IPD, I was writing my Professional Review report. I was able to copy and paste extracts from my quarterly reports to form an initial draft which made me extremely thankful to my past self for putting in that time and effort!
After setting up a recurring calendar event for quarterly reviews, my typical workflow was:
- Write up my quarterly report – in bullet points at first throughout the quarter and then spending a week or two to write the report out in full.
- Submit my quarterly report to my DE a week in advance of our quarterly review.
- During the quarterly review, discuss the report together with my DE, agree which attributes can get signed off or get feedback on what other work experience I would need to get to sign it off.
- Submit my evidence on IPD online (the system has a 2000 characters limit) with relevant attachments e.g. photos, marked drawings, sketches.
- DE reviews the submitted evidence, provides feedback and signs me off on the system.
What has been the most challenging part of your chartership journey?
I found that commercial ability was the most challenging attribute to sign off on since I didn’t deal with contracts and the commercial aspects of managing projects in my day-to-day role. I found that this was a relatively common occurrence from speaking to my DE, SCE and other Chartered Engineers. I overcame this by honing into this attribute, researching different types of procurement routes and contracts, and speaking to the Project Managers and Project Directors of my projects about its contractual framework. Armed with this knowledge, I then reflected on my work experience and produced a summary note of how my work had contributed to the project’s overall commercial success.
Another challenge was that I found spending additional time in the evening and/or over the weekend to write up quarterly reports to be very difficult at times. This was especially the case if I just had a busy week at work or if things were happening in my personal life. I found that by tackling it ‘little and often’ helped to keep the momentum going, particularly using bullet points to jot down thoughts. Then whenever I had a burst of productivity, I would capitalise on that and put in the extra time.
What advice would you give someone who is just embarking on their chartership journey?
Knowing what I know now, here is some of my advice:
- Stay consistent with tracking your IPD. Little and often is fine – your future self will thank you for it!
- Take responsibility for your own development. To use a car analogy, your SCE and DE are there with you in the car but you’re the one who is in the driver’s seat. Set up your recurring meetings. Write up those evidence. Chase your SCE and DE for feedback. Get those attributes signed off.
- When joining a new project or getting a new task, be curious and ask questions about the wider project to build your knowledge. What is the wider project aims? Who are the stakeholders? What are the commercial arrangements? Why are you doing what you are doing? What impact is it going to have?
- If you’d like examples of what sort of evidence can be used to sign off particular attributes, the Civil Engineering Exam and Structural Engineering Exam websites are excellent resources to use. Additionally, the ICE holds attribute seminars and workshops which are very insightful. These are currently all virtual so you can register and attend them regardless of which ICE branch are organising it.
My chartership journey has been an interesting one so far and safe to say, it’s not finished yet! I’m currently preparing for my Professional Review which includes preparing a 5,000 word report, practising my 15 minutes presentation, revising details of my projects specifically in relation to the attributes, brainstorming answers for example written exercise questions with a group of colleagues who are also preparing for their review, and lots of wider reading.
The knowledge, skills and discipline I have developed through this process will undoubtedly prepare me for the IStructE Membership Exam which I plan on sitting after becoming chartered with the ICE. The Mutual Recognition agreement between the two institutions provides a streamlined route to membership at the equivalent grade whereby you are permitted to advance to the Exam without being required to submit evidence of your training and experience (i.e. IPD) or undergoing another Professional Review interview.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is an important part of being a professional Engineer (it is one of the ICE codes of professional conduct) so the chartership process has been a good first step in instilling a mentality of lifelong learning. It has been fulfilling to look back through my quarterly reports and see the growth in my professional development. As someone who experiences imposter syndrome at times, having a record of my achievements and progress has been a great confidence boost. I am now excited about my upcoming Professional Review, the opportunity to prove that I have the skills and experience required to become a Chartered Engineer, and for the doors after achieving this professional qualification to open.
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