A day in the life of a civil engineer

7 min read | Adam McGlead | Article | Industry insights

a day in the life of a civil engineer

Civil engineers are the backbone of our built environment: they plan, design and manage large construction projects that make up the foundations of our daily life. Without civil engineers we wouldn’t have the roads, bridges and railways that enable us to travel across the country and transport goods from one place to another, and we also wouldn’t have access to water, electricity or the internet. 

We’ve spoken to Anthony Kitenge-Ngandu and Morisho Walingamina from Avove, a leading utilities infrastructure services and engineering company, about what a day in the life of a civil engineer looks like for them as professionals working in the water industry.


What does a typical day look like for you as a civil engineer?

Anthony: No two days are the same as a civil engineer at Avove. When I’m working at home or in the office, I use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create drawings that are used in the construction phase of water infrastructure projects. This could range from smaller maintenance projects to large-scale diversions of water mains.

When you’re working on water projects, it’s very important to make regular site visits. What you see on the ground can often be very different from the drawings you create on your desktop. Often, I’ll work with managers onsite who’ll open my eyes to things that I wouldn’t normally see.

Morisho: I’m an assistant civil engineer at Avove and I work on diverting and replacing existing water mains, as well as smaller maintenance projects. When I’m working at home or in the office, I have regular meetings about my projects and I also spend a lot of time using CAD software to create drawings.

As projects progress, I tend to go into the office and onto site more often so I can collaborate with project managers and other engineers. I also have to consider the safety and climate implications of the projects that I’m working on.


What skills are important for a civil engineer to have?

Anthony: As well as the technical skills required to be a civil engineer, communication skills are very important. To make sure everybody gets home safe at the end of the day I make sure I clearly communicate information to my team about risk assessments and potential hazards.

Problem-solving is another core skill. There are many things that could go wrong at any point during a project, so it’s essential that you’re able to problem-solve and think on your feet to resolve issues fast. These practical skills are difficult to pick up in a university setting, but I developed them quickly when working onsite.

Morisho: In my role, interpersonal skills are essential because you’re working with others on projects every day. Good communication and organisation skills are key in making sure that projects are well coordinated and carried out. Leadership skills are also important when you’re working alongside new colleagues and less experienced engineers.


What has your career path in civil engineering looked like so far?

Anthony: My journey to becoming a civil engineer hasn’t always been straightforward. I originally pursued a sports science course at college, but after getting injured I decided to go down a different path and I signed up for a two-year Higher National Diploma (HND) in civil engineering. After completing my HND I was able to apply for the full three-year degree.

My first civil engineering role was in wastewater and I’ve been in the water industry ever since! I’ve also previously worked as an operational survey technician tackling beach pollution and as both an engineering technician and an assistant engineer in the water industry.

Morisho: My civil engineering career has been very varied. I found it hard to find my first role after completing my degree due to a lack of practical experience. This is why I signed up for a two-week Network Construction Operations (NCO) course for gas network operatives. 

After completing the course, I was able to find a job as a gas service laying assistant. I’ve also worked in railways as a skilled track operative and in traffic management. Although these roles were in different areas of utilities, the onsite knowledge I acquired is still relevant and beneficial in my current role in the water industry.


What are your future aspirations for your career in civil engineering?

Anthony: The opportunities are endless and there are many different career paths you can take as a civil engineer. At Avove, we’re lucky to have a dedicated individual who supports our career progression. I’m looking to become a senior engineer and then perhaps move into the project management side of the company in the future.

Morisho: My next step is to finish my Engineering Technician (EngTech) qualification and become a civil engineer. I like the idea of working in different areas, such as telecommunications, power or wastewater, to broaden my skills and I want to work abroad at some point too. It’s exciting to have lots of different options of how I can progress in my career.


What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to pursue a career in civil engineering?

Anthony: I believe that if you show a willingness to learn, others will show a willingness to teach you in return.

Morisho: Don’t be afraid to ask questions when working onsite, as your diagrams may differ from real-world projects.

Feeling inspired to pursue a career in civil engineering? Get in touch with our specialist consultants for career advice and expert insights on what an infrastructure role could look like for you. If you’re wanting to take the next step in your career, take a look at our current civil engineering jobs in infrastructure today.


About this author

Adam McGlead – National Director for Civil and Infrastructure Recruitment, Hays

Adam joined Hays in 2022 and has over 15 years of experience in engineering recruitment, specialising in water, wastewater and environmental disciplines. He’s experienced in leading business development across the infrastructure sector and identifying growth opportunities within existing client portfolios, as well as spotting new opportunities for partnerships and client acquisition.

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