Education and qualifications:
MEng (Hons) Structural and Fire Safety Engineering, University of Edinburgh
Senior Fire Engineer
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I’ve always had a curious nature and been interested in how things work. My grandad was an engineer in the papermills and was always full of stories. His enthusiasm for all things practical left a lasting impression on me, so when I was looking at options for higher education, engineering seemed the obvious choice.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I have been with Arup for over nine years and am based in our Glasgow office. I work as part of a team of almost 30 fire engineers in Scotland and North-East England, and over 100 fire engineers UK-wide. We have a varied workload that ranges from developing fire strategy designs for new buildings, fire risk assessments for complex buildings, fire safety inspections of existing and heritage buildings, acting as expert witnesses for construction disputes and much more.
As Arup is a multi-disciplinary firm, I also work regularly with colleagues in other disciplines such as façade engineering, mechanical and electrical, structures and rail infrastructure.
Can you describe a typical working day?
One of the things I love about fire engineering and the range of projects I get involved with is that no two days are the same. At any one time, I can be working actively on five or six projects, with several different engineers across the UK. This requires good time and task management but means every day is a new challenge that pushes you to improve.
The role of a fire engineer has evolved over the last few years from being primarily desk-based design work to being involved in the whole project life cycle. This now means we often provide input at any part of the design, construction and operation stages. This requires more site-based construction monitoring, fire safety systems witness testing, existing building inspections, fire risk assessments and much more.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
I think to be a successful fire engineer, being a good communicator is just as important as being technically skilled. Presenting complex concepts in a simple and clear way, writing concise and accurate reports, and adjusting your communication style to your audience are skills we use every day. Fire safety science and engineering can be a complex and technical discipline, and it’s important that we can communicate this in a way that others can understand easily.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Working in the fire safety industry gives you the opportunity to work on some really fascinating projects across different sectors, and with people from a wide range of disciplines.
Whether it’s carrying out a fire risk assessment on an historic building, developing a fire strategy for a large train station, or even just a small piece of work for a local school project, I get huge satisfaction from being part of a team that delivers tangible benefits to communities and society.
As a fire engineer, my primary responsibility is to ensure that the buildings and projects I work on are designed, built and operated safely. This can involve difficult conversations and technical challenges, but the satisfaction and enjoyment from finding solutions to safely achieve a project’s goals is huge.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I have spent much of the last few years working on various aspects of the redevelopment of Glasgow Queen Street Station. This was a huge project that required us to work with colleagues from several disciplines and posed some fascinating and unique challenges along the way. It also gave me the opportunity to develop my skills in a leading role on a large and complex project. Seeing such a great project over the line has been hugely satisfying, particularly as I travel through the station to work every day.
I am also working on the redevelopment of the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh. This project presents some fascinating and unique challenges due to the historic, listed nature of the building. It has required close collaboration with every single member of the design team, and is a project I take particular satisfaction and enjoyment from.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
For fire safety consultants, our qualifications and experience are key to our reputation and credibility. Becoming professionally registered is a symbol of this and is an industry-recognised way of demonstrating competence, as assessed by our peers.
Once I graduated and began work as a fire engineer, gaining Chartered Engineer (CEng) status was a natural next step and provided a structured path to progress the early part of my career.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
CEng registration with the Engineering Council is the gold standard of professional recognition in the fire safety and built environment industries. It demonstrates that you have achieved a high level of competence, experience and professionalism in your field, and enhances your reputation as a highly skilled engineer. This in turn improves your ability to develop relationships with clients and also enhances your future career prospects and earning potential.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
Competent and experienced fire safety specialists are highly sought after across the buildings and construction sector, and never more so than in the last few years. As a consultant engineering firm, my organisation trades on the experience, knowledge and skills of its staff. CEng registration with the Engineering Council enables them to demonstrate to current and future clients that their engineers are highly qualified and competent. This in turn brings significant reputational and commercial benefits.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
When applying for Chartered status, it is necessary to demonstrate a variety of professional skills including specialist engineering knowledge, technical and commercial leadership, interpersonal skills, professional standards and ethics. These skills take time to develop, so you should get familiar with them as soon as possible in your career and seek opportunities to work on them over a broad range of projects and roles.
When it comes to writing your application, find what works for you. Everyone’s circumstances are different and finding the time to focus on writing the best possible application is a big commitment. Whether it’s blocking out a single period to sit and focus on it, or chipping away gradually over time, it’s important to ensure the end result is as good as you can make it.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
The fire engineering profession is evolving rapidly, and there are many opportunities to work on different types of projects in different roles. I therefore try to avoid making too many long-term targets. Having a young family also means that striking the right balance between my professional and family life will be a big priority. As long as I’m still learning and improving, and enjoying using my skills to make the world a safer place, I’ll be happy.