Career paths: Katerina Vatti, Tony Hogg Design

Career paths: Katerina Vatti, Tony Hogg Design

Katerina Vatti

Katerina Vatti won the IABSE Future of Design Young Designers Award this week for her presentation on tensile fabric canopies at the Zaha Hadid designed King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She explains her career highlights to date:

Q: What made you choose a career in engineering and infrastructure?

A: I always enjoyed maths and physics at school, as well as design. Engineering combines all three of them plus both my parents are engineers, so I guess they had some influence as well!

Q: What did you study? How did that lead to this career?

A: I graduated with an MEng in Civil Engineering from the University of Bristol in 2011. I spent my third year of studies as an exchange student at the University of California, San Diego focusing mostly on structural engineering. During my studies I always enjoyed learning about architecture and complicated structures so I knew I didn’t want to follow a simple career designing conventional buildings. One of my professors during my fourth year, told me about a graduate position at Tony Hogg Design, I therefore researched a bit about tensile structures which is what the company specializes at, and immediately understood this is definitely very exciting.

Q: Who was your first employer and why?

A: My first employer is Tony Hogg Design, as I joined the team after the summer of my graduation in October 2011. 

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

A: I did have a career plan which turned out to be completely different. As every civil engineering graduate, my dream was to join a big company because I wanted to work on Iconic structures. It turns out that smaller specialist companies get involved with iconic structures as well and you get to be much more involved! I never thought I would specialize in tensile fabric structures. I didn’t even know what tensile fabric structures are until I researched a bit before my interview at Tony Hogg Design. I was always worried that I wouldn’t get a great variety of projects, but it turns out that all projects I’ve done so far are all different in terms of shape, detailing, purpose and aesthetics. 

Q: Why have you stayed at THD?

A: Because specializing in tensile fabric structures is really exciting! Also the team is great and I really enjoy my time at work. Every time we have to face new challenges for every project and learning never stops. 

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

A: Well, I would say my parents because they’ve always supported me in all of my choices. Also, the people I’m working with have given me a lot of motivation as most of them are experts in tensile fabric structures and have a lot of knowledge which I want to inherit.

Q: What about work gets you interested, keeps you interested?

A: I get really excited and motivated to be working on Iconic structures with world leading architects. Also the fact that each project presents new challenges and that design is never the same as of a previous project makes the learning very exciting. I like getting involved with a project from the beginning, scheme design and attending the meetings with the architects because that’s when you can really influence the design and make it more efficient.

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

A: The most important thing for me is to keep learning and keep developing skills, as well as working on very interesting architectural projects. Aesthetics are very important for me.

Q: What is the one thing you have done that has been fundamental to your career?

A: Always being passionate about what I do gives me the greatest motivation.

Q: What makes you smile about your career?

A: The fact that I’m practicing what I have studied and being passionate about it since I was very young makes me really happy. Also completing a job on budget and on time as well as seeing the design getting built is one of the greatest satisfactions an engineer can get!

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