30 Jan 2020
Your career path might not always take you on the course you anticipated, especially as a new graduate caught in the catch-22 of needing to secure a job in your chosen field, and not yet having the experience employers demand. However, taking a sideways step into something unfamiliar might just set your career journey on a fulfilling new path, as Criminology graduate Jennifer Berrill’s story demonstrates.
As our Stafford Geomatics team’s first female surveyor, Jennifer joined RPS in 2018 and is now working towards a Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Surveying. She currently spends most of her time on site for the M6 Smart Motorways survey project, supporting our client Kier.
How did you first learn about RPS?
When I finished university, I had just got myself a job straight away working in a hotel. I needed something that I could really get my teeth into. I couldn't utilise my degree (Criminology) at the time because of the lack of job opportunities I could go into fresh as a graduate so I thought: 'Well, I’ll change. Change my route and go and learn something different.'
I can't remember what site I found the RPS advert on. It was a job opportunity that came up and I thought it was something new to learn. It was different to what I knew but I thought ‘go for it, see what happens!’ and I’m really enjoying it. I Googled RPS and could see it was a massive company and a well-structured organisation that I wanted to get involved in, and now I’m very happy here.
What three words would you use to describe your first impression of RPS on your first day here? And your impression now?
My first impression was great possibilities in a professional company. My experience is the same so far.
What key projects have you worked on since joining RPS?
I spent a few weeks with another surveyor looking at river sections for a flood risk for HS2, since then I’ve been working on the M6 Smart Motorways project full time.
I assist the engineers in providing the control on the site. We’re working with a lot of contractors – obviously we work really closely with Kier, but then there's all the other contractors out on site – different ones come and go. We keep updating the plans for them and make sure everything built is as design. It's mostly site work, then a few days inside processing, and then back out again to catch up.
It was 60km of total motorway length for the original topographical survey, and our scheme (J13-15) is 27km of that. So that's been my main job really.
The difference in sites that we get to experience just provides different challenges and things can change – even on this site, things can change day to day and there are little challenges every day to work around and with.
How has your experience changed your perspective on your long-term career vision?
It’s been really interesting. I've actually found it to be quite a passion – all the drawings. I never really knew anything about surveying before, but I’ve been given so many different opportunities to learn. I never thought it would be anything that I would ever work in, yet here I am!
What one thing in your life has had the most influence on your career path and goal?
I've been offered a lot of training opportunities and it’s definitely changed my long-term career goals. On the Level 3 Diploma we’re driven by observations, we go out and we complete workbooks. I’m learning more about the job and why I’m pressing certain buttons now as it’s coming together and making a lot more sense. So I want to progress even more.
What’s the first thing you would do if you were RPS CEO for a day?
I feel like that’s quite a hard one because obviously I’ve only been here just over 18 months and I feel like there's just so much of the company that I don't know yet. I would probably say I might be trying to get different people from different parts of RPS together and tell me all about everything they do because there's lots of wonderful things that people are doing out there.
What things about RPS would you recommend to people who are seeking an internship/traineeship or job-seeking?
Definitely look to RPS for an opportunity, because you are learning about so much and getting to do these courses. You get to work on different sites so you can get a feel of different projects and start learning different aspects of the job.
Chris Alcock, RPS Survey Manager says:
“We have taken the approach with trainees that it is better to find the right person for RPS, someone that we know will fit into the team rather than taking on someone with a bit more experience that may not fit so well. Jenny is the Geomatics team’s first female surveyor. The industry is very much male dominated and there is currently a big push towards trying to encourage more women into engineering roles, we see Jenny as an excellent role model in this respect.
Once she has completed the ProQual Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Surveying we will be looking to place her on the TSA (The Survey Association) Introduction to Surveying Course. In 2020 she will be looking to spend more time on other non-motorway projects in order to gain more varied experience.
Although her title is assistant surveyor, the M6 project relies on rotation of the senior survey team and Jenny has been a constant presence allowing smooth transition during handover. She has built up strong client relations and knows the project very well.”
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