Serena Solanki

I found engineering through an unconventional route. I had always had my heart set on becoming a Veterinary surgeon but after spending two years volunteering in a clinic for work experience I realised that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t sure what the next steps would be until I had to do mandatory work experience via my school where I was placed in a Civil Engineering office. I loved the ability to design something, solve complex problems and physically see the design being built. I liked knowing that something I had been a part of and helped design would be used by members of the public and hopefully improve their quality of life.

The experience really focussed me on choosing the right GCSEs and A-levels. My Textile teacher encouraged me to apply for the Arkwright scholarship as I showed an interest in design and engineering. The process of applying was quite difficult! There was an exam and an interview, but the process really helps you think critically and out of the box which are the perfect skills needed in engineering.

The financial assistance really helped me throughout my A-levels. I used some of the support to set up an engineering club at school where we would make all sorts of random things! From rubber band cars to coke can Stirling engines.

After A-levels, I studied Civil Engineering at Loughborough University with a year in industry. During my year in industry I worked in London on Tottenham Court Road Station on the station upgrade. I was part of the ‘Fit out’ team where we are involved in all the final finishes that are visible to the public- such as the tiles, escalators and ticket barriers. Working on a construction site was very different to my degree experience which was mostly lab and ‘desk’ based. I gained an appreciation for construction methods, health and safety and understanding how to interpret design. There was a lot of management skills involved as we had to manage sub-contract companies to carry out specialist work.  It was definitely another side to Civil Engineering.

After graduating I worked for Morgan Sindall, my first year was in Swansea- South Wales. I was based on the Welsh Water Framework and on my particular site I was involved in delivering a 2000m3 concrete chamber and various pumping chambers. I was responsible for setting out- ensuring the building were in the right place- managing resources, planning the construction and liaising with the Designers whenever we had an issue.

I completed the graduate scheme and moved onto a project in Peterborough, working on a Rail project that involved constructing new track and building a 180m pre-cast concrete box tunnel. The tunnel was jacked (pushed) under the existing railway to create an underpass in 9days!

Working in construction means that my days are never mundane, and I am constantly working on something new- I love the variability of the job. COVID has also brought in flexible working which Morgan Sindall has adopted long term and so the work- life balance is always at the forefront which is nice to see in construction.

The Arkwright Scholarship really helped me focus and find a new career path that I didn’t even know existed! I am glad that my school encouraged me to apply and I hope I can help other schools encourage their pupils to do the same!

Arkwright Scholar 2011-2013

The Simon Gibson Charitable Trust

Maths, Further Maths, Physics

Loughborough University, MEng in Civil Engineering with an Industrial Year

Site Engineer, Morgan Sindall  Infrastructure