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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Dr Parina Patel BSc (Hons) PhD CEng MIFireE

Published: 16/03/2023

Education and qualifications:
PhD Fire and Materials Science, University of Central Lancashire
BSc (Hons) Forensic Science, University of Central Lancashire

Job title:

Design Fire Consultants

What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
It’s only since becoming Chartered that I’ve felt I can properly call myself an engineer. My education and background are in science, so I’d never set off to become an engineer. I was drawn to a career in engineering after leaving university as I liked solving real-life problems and did some work experience in a consultancy environment, which I really enjoyed. I like that engineering gives you a balance of technical and real-life.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I’m responsible for the day-to-day management of fire engineering projects. This includes liaising with clients such as architects, developers, other engineering disciplines and approving authorities. In my role I’m also responsible for ensuring projects are delivered on time and on budget. I’ve only recently joined Design Fire Consultants but previously had a role in leading staff development and recruitment which I’d love to get involved with again.

Can you describe a typical working day?
No two days are ever the same. I’m mostly office-based, so a typical day would include writing reports, attending meetings with stakeholders, and reviewing drawings or manufacturer’s information. Sometimes I’ll be out of the office going to site visits to inspect fire safety installations or witnessing fire tests.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Post-Grenfell there has been much scrutiny of fire engineering as a profession. I hope the industry will take on the lessons learned from the tragedy, and that safety remains the most important aspect of any fire engineering design.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I love my job. I especially enjoy the variety of projects I get to work on, the network of experts I get to work with and the development of others through coaching and mentoring. I volunteer as a mentor with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) and the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK). It’s so rewarding to see the next generation of engineers grow and develop. I appreciate that makes me sound ancient, but it seems like only yesterday I was going through the same motions, and the challenges my mentees face are very similar to those that I encountered.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Over the past three years, I’ve led the fire engineering design for the redevelopment of Manchester Town Hall. I have a soft spot for heritage buildings and have been able to use my previous experience of working on the Palace of Westminster.

When my grandfather came to the UK in the 1950s, he came to Manchester to work in the city’s cotton mills. I know a lot has changed over the past 70 years but every time I approach the building, I feel a sense of familiarity as I know that he saw what I see today. It has been an honour to work on such a historically significant building.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I think it’s important to have professionally registered engineers to maintain standards within the industry. I felt that becoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng) would give me recognition from my peers, superiors, and other engineers inside and outside of my organisation. I don’t have a ‘traditional’ engineering background and so I hope I can inspire those who do not fit the ‘engineering mould’ to become professionally registered.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
I’m yet to experience the full benefits of becoming professionally registered as I have only recently gained CEng status, but for the moment it demonstrates that I have achieved a recognised standard of competence and I’ve benefitted from the financial and career progression that is associated with this.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My credentials improve the credentials of my team and the profession. When bidding for new work, having CEng status adds greater weight to our bids and gives clients and approving authorities’ confidence in my ability. Certain processes also require CEng sign-off and those can only be completed by employees who are professionally registered.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Start as soon as you can! Professional registration can seem overwhelming to start with, but there is lots of support out there and many people who have been through the same process who can guide and assist you.

The best place to start is with a review of the competences. This can then guide your career progression towards strengthening those competencies which may be missing or weaker. It’s also a good idea to get your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) record in order.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I’d like to carry on working in engineering consulting. As I’ve progressed through my career I’ve been involved more in the business and commercial side of the industry, so I’d like to develop my knowledge and experience in those areas. Design Fire Consultants is a small firm which has been set up within the last 10 years so there is lots of opportunity to get involved with these aspects of the business.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
Does putting together kids toys count?! I work full time and have two children under the age of three, so any ‘spare time’ is spent with my husband and children.

I’m interested in property and have previously renovated the houses we’ve lived in. In the future we’d like either to build our own home or buy something that needs a major renovation or extension, so I will definitely be able to use my experience and knowledge of engineering and the construction industry in that regard.

Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
I do. I’m a member of an ethnic minority (British Indian). I’m also female which, although isn’t formally classified as an under-represented group, is a challenge in the engineering/construction sector. It’s very hard to comment on the influence this has had on my career as I’ve never known any different. Being the only female in the room or the only non-white person in the room has been my experience since completing my A Levels. Sometimes I think it’s a problem socially – many of the social activities around engineering (internally and with clients) are organised by male-dominated groups and therefore sometimes I’ll find myself mountain biking or white water rafting or playing golf (all things I wouldn’t ever choose to spend my spare time doing). I do wonder how these events might vary if they were organised by female-dominated groups. Maybe some wine tasting, who knows!