From Sierra Leone to Croydon, a career in engineering can take you anywhere: Rowland’s story

There are so many different career paths within engineering. Engineering is all around us, from improvements to your local shopping centre to the mobile phone you carry with you all the time. Rowland has worked in many different aspects of engineering and construction, from a trainee site manager to highway network maintenance manager. He makes sure that local residents and businesses have access to good roads and are protected from floods.

How do you get from studying in Sierra Leone to working with London borough councils to improve their buildings, roads and eco homes? Here’s how Rowland’s career journey has evolved.

How do you start your day?

I am up around 6 to 6.30am each day and immediately start thinking about the day ahead. I reach for my work phone and check what meetings are scheduled for the day.

If I have no urgent meetings in the morning I take my time to enjoy my breakfast, check a few of my work emails, respond to some of them and then get dressed and head to work. I live approximately four miles away from my office so I can get from door to door in around 15 minutes driving in. Lucky me!

What are your responsibilities?

As the Highway Network Maintenance Manager, I am responsible for the strategic and operational management of Croydon’s Highway Assets, Structures and Drainage Assets as well as Croydon’s duties under the Flood and Water Management Act.

This involves responsibilities for 724Km of carriageway, 56 highway structures, approximately 35,000 drainage and soakaway assets and the delivery of our winter service operations.

Not quite sure what an “asset” is? Find out more about asset managers in the transport industry.

How did you get your job?

After studying a BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering degree at the University of Sierra Leone, I went on to pursue an MSc degree in Urban Civil Engineering from South Bank University.

I had just been accepted on a three year secondment as a Trainee Site Manager with Willmott Dixon Housing Southern Ltd, working on various construction sites across South London - including the construction of environmentally friendly homes, housing regeneration schemes and an extension to a young offender’s institution.

I then went on to work for a consultancy team at Wandsworth Council, working on a range of highway and traffic engineering projects including controlled parking schemes and traffic calming schemes.

I then applied for a position at Croydon Council and recall finding the interview questions right up my street, given the experience I had had so far from working for Willmott Dixon and Wandsworth Council.

Many years later, one of the interviewers said to me that immediately following my interview the panel jokingly questioned themselves if any of them had briefed me on the interview questions!

In 2012 after being a Senior Engineer for a number of years I applied for my current position as a highway network maintenance manager and was successful!

Describe a normal day in your role…

A typical day starts around 8.15 to 8.30am by checking my emails and preparing for any meetings during the day.

It then carries on like a doctor’s surgery with various staff from my team and other teams popping round to my desk to discuss issues or seek my views.

My day ends sometime between 6pm and 7pm as I tend to work relatively uninterrupted from around 5pm, which is when I deal with items requiring more detailed attention.

Tell us about your best moment in your role…

My proudest moment at Croydon was working with our contractor to gain accreditation for collaboration and through this collaborative arrangement introduce innovative and efficiency saving schemes in Croydon.

Other proud moments include working almost round the clock for about a month to protect Croydon residents and businesses from flooding in 2014.

And what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

My biggest challenge in recent times has been delivering my service on a reduced budget. To get over the problem, my team and I are constantly looking at how we can do more for less and what other sources of funding could be tapped into to cover any shortfall.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is problem solving. As with most project based work, the challenge of dealing with problems or difficulties is inevitable. It’s a key part of my job and one that I enjoy dealing with, particularly if I am able to suggest practical ways of overcoming those problems.

Got any job hunting tips?

My job hunting tip is for candidates to respond to each requirement in the person specification. This makes it easier for your responses to each requirement to be reviewed as part of the shortlisting process and could increase your chance of being called up for an interview.

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