Career paths: George Smart, AECOM

The winner of the IABSE Future of Design North Young Designer of the Year shares Brunel’s dream for a bridge across the Tamar.

George Smart, AECOM

George Smart was a winner of the IABSE Future of Design North 2015 Young Designer of the Year Award last month following his presentation entitled “I Dream of a Bridge on the Tamar, It Opens Us Up to the East” 

He is a civil engineer who specialises in bridge construction, assessment and asset management. His presentation drew on experience gained on Brunel’s iconic Royal Albert Bridge project in Plymouth, were he was based full time on site with a key role in the inspection and design works on the project.

How do you describe you main role?

My current role is as a structural engineer – currently undertaking bridge assessments and asset management. For my current main project, I work in a team that of other engineers of different experience levels, and between us we go out and inspect bridge structures, determine their condition and calculate the load carrying capacity. It’s a role that incorporates many different elements of bridge engineering, site and team work. I am also a Sapper in the Army Reserve with 170 Infrastructure Support Engineers, a hybrid unit for engineering professionals.

Why did you decide to go into engineering/infrastructure?

Engineering as a career offers variety and even before that, an engineering degree is very rewarding. Going into infrastructure was certainly shaped by the economic reality and when I graduated – it’s a more stable area of the profession. But, equally, bridge structures are the epitome of structural engineering and there are fantastic opportunities when working in this field.

What prompted you to enter the IABSE competition?

My colleague who is on the organising committee knew I had worked on an interesting structure and so she prompted me to apply.

What did you study and how did that lead to this career?

I studied Civil Engineering at Cardiff University. Following slightly ropey A-level results I entered on the BEng programme, but finished on the Masters course. The dissertation I completed did focus on the bridge loading standards which led me into my first design job and then onto consultancy.

Who was your first employer and why?

I first worked for Halcrow up in Birmingham. They offered the role through the Year in Industry scheme, which is designed to get young people into the engineering profession.

What is your brief CV since that time

Following the financial crash and the buyout of Halcrow, which coincided with my graduation, I went to work as a design engineer for the small precast concrete manufacturer CPM Group. That was a great experience and manufacturing is a different role to both contracting or consultancy and it’s an experience I still value. After some time there, I was offered the role on site at Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge with AECOM, which was too good to turn down. I now work for AECOM in Croydon, on a variety of bridge projects.

Did you have a career plan? Do you have one now?

My career plan has been to move around a bit, try and get on projects that keep me interested and that I can learn new things on. My medium term plan is gain Chartered Engineer status. I think it’s important to be able to move between locations and projects while you still can, but right now I am enjoying the opportunities available within London.

How has reality panned out against that plan?

Reasonably well, although the Chartership paperwork, as always, is piling up!

What do you like about your employer?

Aecom is a very large company and so has many different projects all around the world, with some extremely experienced engineers. There is always an expert who is a phone call or email away! They are also very supportive of my Army Reserve career, allowing time off so I can go and train with my unit.

What is exciting about your role?

In my principal project there is a good mix between the actual engineering calculations, report writing and site inspections, with some client liaising thrown in for good measure. The variety is the most exciting thing as no two structures are identical.

If you hadn’t chosen this career what else might you have been?

A policeman.


Details of the IABSE Future of Design North event are here 

If you would like to contact Antony Oliver about this, or any other story, please email


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