Last edited 15 Dec 2020

Main author

Michael Brooks

Interview with Harriet Latimer - Graduate Design Engineer

This is part of Student resources.

Latimer Harriet.jpg

Harriet Latimer is a Graduate Design Engineer for Kier Group, currently based in Cambridge.

She spoke with Designing Buildings Wiki about her career-to-date:

Designing Buildings Wiki (DBW): What is a typical day like as a design engineer?

Harriet Latimer (HL): It’s hard to define a typical day, as my work is so varied. I could be checking contracts or arranging surveys and appointments, or checking drawings for buildability, compliance and stakeholder value.

One thing I do make time for each day is to speak to the design team, to make sure our projects are on track. It’s important for me to build strong relationships across the business, to make sure all our projects are delivered smoothly and on time.

DBW: What is the project you are currently working on?

HL: I am currently working on a laboratory extension for the University of Cambridge, which will support fundamental research into the molecular processes underlying human disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's.

I find working on projects like this incredibly rewarding, as I know what I do will have a direct effect on people’s lives.

DBW: What made you decide to go into engineering?

HL: Like most people, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do after school. I enjoyed mathematics and art, and having grown up in a renovation project, I decided to use my knowledge and skills by studying architecture at university.

However, I soon realised I was more interested collaboration and construction rather than the artistic side of architecture, so I moved into a career in design management. The beauty of our industry is that it’s so varied, and the skills you learn in one role are easily transferrable, so the transition was pretty smooth.

DBW: What sort of training/education did you have?

HL: I did a Batchelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Building Design Management and Building Information Management (BIM).

DBW: How did your university course prepare you for entering into this line of work?

HL: As well as teaching me how to manage multiple deadlines, university gave me an insight into the theory behind industry processes; why things are done a certain way and how they can be improved. It also gave me a good understanding of BIM, which is great knowledge to have, with April 2016’s introduction of the BIM Level 2 mandate.

Perhaps most importantly, university gave me a real thirst for knowledge, which has served me well so far in my career. Investigating industry trends has helped me to improve my work and built my confidence in my role.

DBW: What skills or personal qualities are good to have as an engineer?

HL: With such a wide variety of careers in engineering, it’s easy to find a role that suits you, no matter your skillset or personality. One of the things I’ve discovered about the industry is the benefit of having a mix of people, as everyone will bring something different to a project.

Looking to design management more specifically, having a keen eye for detail while being able to see the bigger picture is a good quality to have, as you need to understand how everyone working on a project fits together. And of course, good people skills are vital!

DBW: What advice would you offer to girls considering a career in engineering?

HL: Very simply - engineering is a great industry, so please don’t be put off by any outdated stereotypes. The industry needs a range of people from different backgrounds in order to progress and keep innovating, so there’s lots you can bring to the table.

To anyone considering a career in engineering, I would say it’s not all about maths and science – there are a range of incredibly varied careers in the industry, with plenty of room for progression.

Do your research, find a role or company that appeals to you, and see if you can get some work experience (anything from job shadowing to a work placement), to help you make your decision.

DBW: And lastly, what do you enjoy most about being a design engineer?

HL: The sheer variety of the work I do – one day is never the same as another – and the satisfaction of seeing a project done well, from people collaborating to get the job over the line, to end-users enjoying what you’ve helped to construct.

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--Michael Brooks

Designing Buildings Anywhere

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