Career path: Nicola Moriarty – BWB associate

Nicola Moriarty

Why did you decide to go into engineering?

I initially wanted to be an architect but I started a BTEC at 16 in building studies which opened up a whole new world of construction and the different careers that it offered. After a couple of years trying different disciplines, I found that structural engineering provided the professional challenge I required.

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

I started straight from school on the BTEC as part of an apprenticeship as a draughtswoman with Hull City Council.  On completion of the course, I then went on to the HNC in building studies. I also changed careers and tried my hand at estimating for a concrete repair company which was interesting.  Unfortunately as I was coming to the end of completing my HNC the construction industry was hit by the recession of the early 90s and I was made redundant but managed to finish and achieve my HNC. I eventually got a job working for Hull City Council again where I was first surveying for the Parks Department which lead then into the management of maintenance teams.

I was there a few years until the construction industry picked up and I was able to find employment within it again. This took me to Leeds, where I worked for a consulting engineering practice which dealt with the investigation of properties affected by subsidence. As part of this employment I was fortunate enough to be sponsored to take my HNC in civil engineering and following this, start my BEng(Hons) in civil engineering at Bolton University. Both were part time courses.

It was from here that my experience in structural engineering grew and teamed with the part time study, has led to where I am today, a fully chartered structural engineer.

Why did you chose Hull City Council as your first employer?

I did have the opportunity to stay on for A levels or attend college full time but the position enabled me to study part time, a similar course to what I would have studied full time. At that time I was still unsure what career path to take so thought the job route would give me a better perspective on things. I was also getting itchy feet to get out of a classroom.

Did you have a career plan? How has reality panned out against that plan?

While still at school my ambition was to be an architect. This was quashed by my career adviser who stated my maths’ was not good enough and I should consider a career in nursing (note I did not take Biology as one of my options for my GCSE’s). This was a clear example of career officers at that time being poorly advised on careers for girls in what was then a very male dominated world.

I was very lucky to have a form teacher who realised that I could follow my chosen career path and was fortunate that he helped me to secure work experience in a consulting engineer’s office for two weeks. This reinforced to me that I would like to still pursue the career path but also made me realise that there may be a different route to take to being an architect than the usual ‘A’ level route.

As you can see, the architecture plans did not come to fruition but not through failure, more that I found a career that I loved more.

What is special about BWB and why did you stay?

BWB has a family atmosphere which is really quite special for such a large company. There is always a big effort made for it to be perceived by the staff ias one company, rather than individual departments or offices. I have recently had a break from the company which did not last long as I missed that atmosphere.

Describe your job and BWB

I am responsible for the design and delivery of all structural aspects of projects.  Co-ordinating the input of a team of engineers and technicians and monitoring quality and integration with architects and services design. This includes the financial control for the structural element of the structural team in the London Office.

BWB delivers high quality commercial consultancy services, spread across a variety of professional disciplines such as building, planning, infrastructure, environmental, site investigation, surveys, transportation, expert witness and Building Information Modelling.

What is the challenge?

The challenge is keeping up with the various construction methods and trends and also keeping up with the technical knowledge required to design structures.

What is exciting?

Not knowing what is going to be thrown at you next. As we work with quite a few unknowns (things buried, unknown ground conditions, existing buildings with no construction records to name a few), challenges come through frequently which require quick resolutions most of the time as contractors are on site and down time costs money.

Who has had the most influence over your career and why?

My family – they have always encouraged me in all that I have done and to strive to achieve more. You need that support network especially when you have carried out all your studies part time.

What can employers offer to make you most happy in your career?

Structured career progression and diversity of projects. Knowing you can make it to the top gives the drive to get though the difficult days and having diversity keeps it interesting.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep on with the studies – the missed holidays and time out with friends you sometimes have to give up - it is all worthwhile in the end!

What is the best thing so far in your career?

The opportunity to work in Sydney Australia for BWB. It was great to experience a different way of working and construction methods. The weather was not too bad either!

If you would like to contact Jackie Whitelaw about this, or any other story, please email