Chloe – Chartered Building Services Engineer

If you enjoy problem solving, design work and/or the possibility to improve people’s lives, then read on to find out more about Chloe’s career.

What attracted you to this job?

I love to solve problems, and building services covers such a broad range of different areas that there’s always a new challenge so I never get bored – that was certainly part of the appeal. The other half was working in an area that helps to make peoples lives better, I just find that so rewarding.

What does your typical day involve?

No two days are the same, which is part of what I love. I might be in my high-vis & hard hat on a roof, surveying air intakes, or in white overalls in a pharmaceutical factory taking temperature measurements, or visiting clients to talk to them about a new project and what their requirements are. My ‘normal’ day though is spent in the office, answering e-mails with construction queries, writing specifications, drawing layouts, meeting with the rest of the design team and calculating heat losses to name but a few.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

I love doing something that makes the world a better place, I love to open the bathroom cabinet or a kitchen cupboard and see a load of products that I’ve enabled to be made. When I’m working on the more potent pharmaceuticals I also love knowing that what I’m doing is helping to save lives!

What do your friends and family think about your job?

My friends all seem to think I do something very complicated but very important…which is good because it’s always the case that at least one of those things is true! My parents are certainly very proud of what I do.

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance

At my office we work flexi-time, so most days I get into work pretty early (around 7.30-8am) which means that I get to head home early too (I’m often home by 4.15pm) giving me loads of time in the evenings to catch up with friends & family. On the whole I think I have a pretty good work-life balance, although occasionally I need to work on site for long periods of time. Last year I spent 3 months working in Hull…that meant spending 4 nights each week staying in a hotel away from home. It wasn’t so great for my social life but did give me time to study and book some very exciting holidays! Plus some of the working away from home is great fun – the year before last I was regularly flying in to Paris and Geneva, where indulging in some fabulous food and even spending some time on the lake.

How did you get to where you are today?

I was inspired to go into engineering by the wonderful creations, like working models of traction engines, that my Grandfather made in his workshop, and by a maths teacher who suggested that it would be a good career for me, knowing how good I was at maths and physics.
At school I took A-Levels in Maths, Physics & Product Design and AS-Levels in Further Maths & Micro-electronics
When I got to university, studying Mechanical Engineering, I had to choose a third year project and I picked a project relating to medical devices (an artificial hip joint) as I enjoy working on things that I know will improve people’s lives. I stayed at Sussex University for a 4th year to complete my Masters in Engineering (MEng) and chose another project relating to medical devices (this time a ‘diabetic boot’).
I used my engineering & medical device studies to get a job as a Mechanical Design Engineer for a medical device company. After a couple of years I changed role to become a Building Services Engineer as I prefer the faster pace and broader variety of challenges and technologies that come with designing the labs and factories that the medical devices are made in rather than the medical devices themselves.
After gaining a few years of experience working on lots of different projects in lots of different roles (ranging from design to supervision to validation) I gained chartered status with CIBSE (the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers).

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?

Don’t feel you have to do lots of A-Levels and get a masters degree, I have done and it’s a very good route to getting chartered quickly (though do make sure you pick a degree course that is accredited by the UK Engineering Council), but lots of my colleagues have done apprenticeships, Diplomas, HNDs and other qualifications. The most important thing about qualifications is to choose a way of learning that you enjoy, otherwise you’ll never do as well as you could do.
I would certainly suggest contacting the professional institutions of areas you think you’re interested in to see if they have any student activities or any engineers you could talk to directly. Different areas of engineering, and different roles, suit different people. Which one is best for you will depend on what you enjoy doing and what you find exciting/rewarding, and the people who generally know the most about different engineering roles are the engineers themselves.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

Starting salaries for a degree qualified engineer are usually around £17,000-£20,000. If you prove you’re worth it, then raises of around £2000 per year aren’t uncommon when we’re not in a recession. A Chartered engineer can easily expect to earn over £30,000.

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

I’m a big fan of board & card games and play these with family and friends. I also like to go out for meals and drinks. But above all else, travel is definitely my favourite thing, especially if it means I get to try new foods or do something exciting like scuba diving or skiing.

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

Of course! We all make mistakes since we’re all human, and getting things wrong is always embarrassing. It would be difficult to choose which was the worst between managing to specify an indoor chiller to be located outside on a roof in the cold and rainy North of England or wearing a floaty skirt to an office in a very windy location…I think everyone saw my pants!