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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Saqib Khan MEng (Hons) CEng MIStructE

Published: 22/03/2024

Education and qualifications:
MEng (Hons), Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham, UK

Job title:
Principal Structural Engineer, Building Structures






What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
Whilst studying at secondary school, I was asked to review options for my two-week work experience placement. Having had little knowledge of different industries at the time, my form tutor recommended I do work experience with a civil and structural engineering consultant, considering my keen interest for maths and science.

I had the opportunity to shadow structural engineers, where I had hands-on involvement on real-life projects. I was able to work on my own miniature truss bridge project from design to construction, which I then had the chance to test by loading it! This experience had a profound impact on me, influencing my choice of A-Levels and my degree in engineering. Remarkably, I eventually found myself starting my first job as a Structural Engineer, at the very same company after graduation!

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am a Principal Structural Engineer in the building structures team for AtkinsRéalis. I work on low to high profile building structure projects across various sectors including HS2, education, commercial, infrastructure, residential, defence and leisure sectors. This role requires strong technical knowledge as well as teamworking and management skills to take projects from concept through to construction.

Collaboration with stakeholders and other disciplines is a key part of my role. I work closely with architects, civil engineers, contractors, and other professionals to ensure integration of structural designs within the overall project. This involves the provision of innovative solutions to complex engineering challenges, ensuring the structural integrity and safety of buildings and structures.

Furthermore, I collaborate closely with clients to understand project requirements to ensure successful project delivery. I am also involved in bidding, site visits, risk assessments, resourcing, training, structural designs, compliance with building codes and regulations.

Can you describe a typical working day?
I typically start my day by catching up on my pending tasks from the previous day and reprioritising my work to align with the ever-changing needs of the business and clients. In my current role, I have the freedom to work flexible hours. This proves to be invaluable, especially when collaborating with overseas colleagues.

No day is the same, and every day offers a different challenge. This is part of why I truly enjoy working in the industry . One day might involve project bidding and attending catch-up meetings, whilst on other days, I focus on the design and analysis of complex structures. Occasionally, I  attend site visits to oversee construction progress, participate in training sessions, create sketches, drawings, and specifications for upcoming projects.The ever-changing demands of my job keeps me enthusiastic and driven to contribute to the industry's progress.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
As structural engineers, we are faced with significant challenges in the wake of climate change. Almost 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to buildings and construction. It is therefore vital that we as structural engineers play our part to  reduce overall construction emissions  to zero as quickly as possible.

Firstly, as structural engineers we should be more committed to lean designs and sustainability. We must adapt our design methodologies to account for more frequent and changing weather events, such as flooding and heatwaves. We must aim to achieve safety and resilience in structures throughout their lifetimes whilst adhering to sustainable principles. By embracing lean and sustainable approaches, we must ensure that our designs contribute to a more environmentally conscious and climate-resilient built environment.

Secondly, we must continue to explore alternative materials and construction techniques that have a lower embodied carbon impact. Our priorities should revolve around adopting efficient designs, promoting renewable materials, and implementing sustainable building practices to produce less waste. Additionally, retrofitting existing structures to promote re-use rather than demolition whilst enhancing energy efficiency becomes a pressing challenge as it requires careful consideration of both cost effectiveness and environmental impact. In addressing these challenges, we, as structural engineers, play a key role in adopting a more sustainable and climate resilient built environment.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I enjoy most aspects of my job, from identifying the initial structural challenges to ensuring successful delivery. Whilst some of my structural designs may be concealed within the building finishes, the joy of bringing architectural visions and client aspirations into reality makes every effort worthwhile. I absolutely love seeing my designs come to life during construction.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
My greatest professional achievement so far is gaining Chartered Status (CEng) via the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), a membership organisation dedicated to structural engineering. The journey was tough due to various factors affecting my timelines, but it was well worth it.  

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Becoming a CEng has been a goal since my time at university because it signifies professional recognition and excellence in the field. It also reflects a commitment to continuous development and the highest standard of engineering.

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work alongside supportive engineers and directors who have consistently encouraged me to pursue my professional registration. Their continued guidance and support has proven to be invaluable.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Professional registration has enhanced my credibility and recognition within the industry. It has opened doors to greater career opportunities and higher positions and is one of the contributing factors to my progression from Senior to Principal Structural Engineer.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My employer benefits from registration as it  brings a higher level of expertise, competence, and credibility to the organisation. This also allows us to tender for more work from a wider range of clients both nationally and internationally.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Go for it! Your career will be enhanced along with your credibility in the industry. Keep a record of your development and start engaging with the institutions and fellow engineers. There is nothing to worry about, there are different ways of achieving your registration. It will be worthwhile!

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I would like to see myself at the forefront of innovation and excellence. I’d like to continue to encourage people to pursue a career in engineering. I am also hoping to attain additional professional memberships relevant to my industry.

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?
I take an active role in supporting fellow engineers in their growth and development. Additionally, I participate in career fairs and occasionally visit my former secondary school to share my career journey and inspire students to pursue careers in STEM-related industries, especially in structural engineering.