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Umar Saleem

MEng (Hons) Civil & Structural Engineering (2015)
Civil Engineer with Mott MacDonald, Manchester

Umar Saleem

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?  What was your first impression of the university and the city and what did you enjoy most about your time in Bradford?

The University of Bradford is relatively close to my home town and has a well reputable Civil Engineering Department. A high percentage of students from the university manage to secure graduate positions immediately after completing their degree and therefore have the luxury of working straight into a job that is related to their degree, although prospective students should be aware that the job application process does take a long time.                              

Also the university offers a huge range of study abroad programmes of all kinds, in my first year, I managed to travel to a number of countries in Asia (for free) on behalf of the university and when I returned I didn’t have to re-sit my year, which is an experience not many people get in any university.

I have always found the teaching staff extremely responsive to my needs and would be willing to meet up and discuss any issues that the students were having with their work.  One particular incident was when I was given a final year project topic that I wasn’t too keen on; after a meeting with my Supervisor, I managed to change the topic on to one which I had much more interest and one that I believed would be far more beneficial  to me in the future.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about your course?

The famous Haiti and Kobe earthquakes were approximately of the same magnitudes, yet the death toll in Haiti was almost 100 times greater than that of Kobe.  This is down to the quality of the infrastructure, which is designed and built by civil Engineers.  Cholera was a major killer in England many years ago, most famously in London along the River Thames; it was civil Engineers that saved the millions of lives through clever design and engineering. 

I wanted to build a career in an industry that has effectively saved more lives than any other through providing the basics that are often overlooked, clean water, electricity, roads, schools, hospitals etc.  An Engineer is a problem solver who specialises within a particular field, but someone that isn’t completely confined to the restrictions of their education.  Engineers build things that the layman in the street doesn’t even know exist – now that is something cool!

What tips would you give to prospective students (about the course at University of Bradford and the university itself)?

Don’t overlook the social side of university, having good connections throughout the university is priceless and will be very useful at exam times and after you have left university.  The hardest thing about university is self-discipline; if you stay on top of your work, it will make the whole of your university experience much easier and more enjoyable.

And finally, make the most of your university life, the two aspects of university life you’ll miss the most is having the choice of getting up in the morning and doing whatever you want (it’s very different when your job depends on it) and secondly unlike the working world where you have to “brown-nose” your manager and colleagues, in university you can be as real as you want to be, with anyone, including your lecturers.

How did Career Development Services support you during your time at University?

Career Development Services was helpful at every stage of my graduate application process – the initial CV, completing application forms, practice competency tests and interview/assessment centre practice.  Although I have always been a confident speaker, I think I would have struggled at interviews if I didn’t get the help from Careers.

The Careers Service also allows you to meet up with students who may have already had the same interview as you, to get advice and opinions from students’ perspective.

Tell us about your current job.

My graduate role is with Mott MacDonald, a global management, engineering and development consultancy.  I will be working as a Civil Engineer from September 2015, in the Manchester office in the Building and Infrastructure Department.  This role will incorporate working on the Civil and Structural Engineering design of primarily building structures.  Mott MacDonald has one of the best graduate programmes that aim to help graduates become a chartered engineer within 4 years.

After achieving my Chartered Engineer status, I hope to look at opportunities with Mott MacDonald abroad in one of their many offices around the world.

What action did you take to improve your employability whilst at University?

First of all make sure you are getting good grades, it’s not the most important thing, in fact the grades you achieve probably won’t be discussed during interviews at all, but being able to say that you are confidently and consistently achieving high grades within your degree provides you with a solid platform to taking the first steps towards being noticed by an employer.

But more importantly, understanding how information gained from specific modules would be applied to working in industry.  I hardly remember any of the formulae from Year 1, but I can confidently approach a range of problems and understand the basic science being it, to engineer, a viable and practical solution.  It’s the understanding of the processes that employers seek in graduates.

I also completed an industrial placement year with JN Bentley working in the Leeds office in the Reservoirs Team.  That was the biggest help that brought me to the attention of employers when I was going through my applications.  I think it is essential for students to be aware of industry developments.  For civil Engineers, at the time when I was going to graduate job interviews, employers were very impressed by students who could talk at length about BIM.  The same would apply to students applying for jobs of all types.

What advice would you give to current students wishing to enter this type of career?

The job market is filled with ups and downs; the more you put into any career … the more you’ll get out of it.  Do your research into the industry; are you doing it for the money or for a secure job after?  Or because you’re just interested in the topic?  Then talk to graduates, students and people working in the industry, face-to-face, to separate the fact from the myth about working in the industry.

I love Civil Engineering; it’s a good challenge and an enjoyable career that can be very rewarding financially.  But students need to understand the myths of the high flyer, for example high paying jobs in Dubai for fresh graduates – they do exist, but they are a lot harder to achieve that people make it out to be.