A Day in the Life of a WCI Project Engineer

Ever wondered what it may be like to work as a WCI Project Engineer? Do our staff really spend their days elbow deep in muck?

Being an engineer means there is no such thing as a typical day. Each day varies depending on the project you’re working on, the team you’re collaborating with, and sometimes, how you fix something that’s gone wrong.

We followed Project Engineer, Phil, to see what he gets up to in a ‘typical’ working day.

The day starts early on site at a domestic property to set up the installation of a new sewage treatment plant. As the project engineer, Phil has arguably already spent more time planning for the construction work than the time required on site. Having previously surveyed the site to assess the existing drainage, address accessibility challenges and meet with the owners, he’s been able to mastermind the installation programme in advance. WCI has applied for an Environment Agency permit for the new discharge and our team of civil engineers has overseen the design of the new system.

Day one of any installation project is invariably geared towards logistics – mobilising the various contracted teams, machinery and materials to site – and today is no different. Access to the property, reached by an uneven bridlepath proves as challenging as anticipated but with excavation machinery manoeuvred safely, Phil is ready to oversee a partial dig to confirm the ground conditions. Once the team is set up and the dig progressing, Phil heads to the office to work on another foul drainage project.

Our project engineers are constantly working across several projects, each at different stages of completion which keeps their workload varied and their multi-tasking skills well honed!  It may not be glamourous work, but this blend of hands-on project management and engineering allows our team to take ownership of a design, showcase their problem-solving skills and see their ideas come to life.

A portion of Phil’s working week is dedicated to desk work, carrying out complex design calculations, specifications and cost estimates. Yesterday he conducted a home buyers’ compliance survey on a local property on private drainage and today he’s working on the report to send to the prospective buyers. The property’s sewage treatment is currently not compliant with the Environment Agency’s General Binding Rules and requires replacement. Working alongside an experienced team, Phil often seeks the advice of our civil engineers to ensure designs are viable and meet relevant environmental and legal regulations. After a report is peer reviewed, the report is sent to the client, a few phone calls are made to discuss an ongoing installation project and Phil heads out again.

This time it’s to meet property owners who have registered for a free septic tank upgrade as part of our phosphate offsetting scheme. Phil visits the property to inspect the accessibility, the rainwater connections to the foul drains, the existing discharge and assess the location for the new sewage treatment plant and its electrical supply. Meeting with the property owners allows Phil to ensure the design decisions work for them, discuss the installation process and reassure them about the reinstatement of their garden after the works are complete. With this information, coupled with some basic details on the number bedrooms at the property he’ll complete a written survey that forms the basis of the upgrade plan and the corresponding cash incentive that we can pay the owners.

Back at the office, Phil replies to few emails and readies himself for tomorrow’s schedule, where he’ll be on site at an ongoing commercial installation in South Devon.

More about Phil…

Phil joined WCI two years ago with oodles of practical know-how and experience in construction and contract management. New to wastewater engineering, he received on the job training and, like all team members, benefits from continuous learning in his role. He was recently awarded a five-year Site Safety Plus certification having passed the CITB Site Management Safety Training Scheme, equipping him to run construction sites and stay compliant with relevant construction legislation.

What do you find rewarding about your career?

It’s great to see a project all the way through from the initial site visit, to quote, installation and ongoing servicing. I am often problem solving and the diversity of my jobs means no day is the same as the last. Knowing that I am making a difference to the environment and to someone’s quality of life is incredibly rewarding.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Keeping a project on track involves managing many moving parts, juggling communication and making sure everyone is informed about decisions. Project details change, situations change, so you need to trouble shoot problems that pop up from those changes. And we have multiple projects on the go so it’s a challenge to keep lots of balls in the air!

What advice would you give to someone considering a career as an engineer?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Quiz your colleagues, your clients, your mentors. If you can understand the reasoning behind designs, you won’t just be putting something on paper because it fits.

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