Commute, work, sleep … Inside an engineer’s head during a banal day

Commute, work, sleep ... Inside an engineer's head during a banal day

3 December 2019
daily life Engineer
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Builders of bridges or power plants, application developers, designers, project managers … But what exactly do all these engineers do? Between meetings, exchanges with the client, team management,      every day is a new dawn. Marie Brun, a contract engineer for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, Richard Smith, construction and inspection engineer, and Edouard Gérardin, building project manager, share their daily, multiple and protean lives.

From contract to yoga, there is only one step

Hinkley Point C – HPC by its small name – is an extension project of the existing Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Plant in Somerset, England. Launched in 2012, it aims to supply low-carbon electricity to 6 million homes by adding 2 new EPR-type reactors to the existing plant. A colossal project, which brings together some 4,000 workers and dozens of suppliers, chaperoned by the company Edvance, an EDF subsidiary. To ensure compliance with the technical specifications of the different contracts with subcontractors, Edvance uses Contract Engineering Leads. This is the role of Marie and her team.

For Marie, a banal day includes two to three hours of technical meeting, one hour of reporting, and a hundred emails to process. “I’m the point of contact for the eight contracts we manage within my team. A big part of my responsibilities is to make sure the information flows properly.” The rest of the time, Marie re-reads documents, researches information, and exchanges with many interlocutors. “For the success of the mission, it is crucial that I weave my network between the different interfaces. Communicating by email is not always enough, I have to call people regularly, and I spend two days a month in Bristol to meet them in person.”

In addition to her technical responsibilities, Marie is also responsible for the management of her team and maintains a transparent and healthy relationship with her client. An even friendly relationship, which has recently resulted in an initiation to yoga on his part, and Taekwondo from one of his colleagues. “My colleagues and my client all very much appreciated”.

The recruitment of a replacement now occupies part of her days, to the detriment of a more personal management. “I would like to spend more time with each person on my team, help them identify their strengths and continue to make them progress. My goal would be for my team to be resilient and more autonomous on their tasks“. In addition, Marie is involved in Assystem’s life through recruitment events, conferences, her involvement in the #INCREDIBLEWOMEN program, and her recent participation in the internal innovation contest. “Our solution of capitalization of the feedback of the offers made internally won the prize of the category innovation. We have 6 months to validate the need, confirm or refute the idea, and build the project step by step, coached by experts in intrapreneurship.” A busy schedule…

Men or materials’ health, same fight

The construction, nuclear or defense industry has one thing in common: they all place heavy demands on the materials they use. Thus, to analyze their resistance, computer engineers model these materials and then twist them in all directions and identify the potential risks of failure. This is the role of Richard Smith and his colleagues.

Currently in contract with an international customer, Richard spends one day a week in their offices to interact with engineers and project managers. He dedicates the rest of his week to modeling the pieces to analyze on computer and to write technical reports to present his results, in order to improve the materials in question during the design phase, or to limit the risks if they have already been produced. “It’s often a semi-autonomous role.  Because clients are hoping I’ll say the product is fine, then unless there’s a problem, my work often doesn’t directly influence that of others. This allows me to limit the number of meetings I attend, unlike some of my colleagues. On the other hand, I need to be informed in case of change of design to be able to integrate these modifications in my modelizations”.

A few hours a week, Richard endorses his second hat: referent health and safety at work for all the building and fifty employees who work there. “I’m part of the first aid team for physical and mental health. It’s about assessing the risks within the building and countering them before they cause a problem.” Richard is also involved in the life of the office through “Lunch & Learn” sessions, during which he shares aspects of his modeling and simulation work, as well as warning about the risks of stress on mental health. Finally, as an ambassador for STEM, a program to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics for children, Richard works in schools. ” I help them to know the options available to them, to open them perspectives for the future. It’s very rewarding!” An effective way to pass the torch to the new generation.

From technical to relational, the engineer is on all fronts

Initially a technical coordinator specializing in BIM, Édouard Gérardin recently took the lead in the prime contracting of construction projects, mainly on public tenders. “As I manage four projects in parallel, my first task of the day is to plan my work and identify the day’s emergencies. These topics require a certain degree of concentration, I try to focus on two projects a day maximum to avoid scattering me. My days are punctuated by technical meetings (about a third of my time), the writing of ingénieur, reports and action plans, the relationship with my clients and the different co-contracting companies, the management of teams internally, and a whole administrative part: invoicing, progress monitoring, reporting, etc.” Due to its technical expertise in BIM, Édouard is also asked to respond to offers of support on topics of development of digital mockups.

For Édouard, the diversity of missions and lifelong learning are of great interest to his position. “The engineering knowledge acquired at school is not enough. We are permanently placed in situations outside our comfort zone. You have to be informed, learn, and be multi-function. It’s challenging, but that’s what I like.” Édouard also appreciates the relational dimension of his profession. “It’s important for me to build relationships of trust, both internally and externally. I like to start a project like strangers and finish it by sharing a drink and re-doing the world with my colleagues and clients.”

Moreover, like Marie and Richard, Édouard intervenes on various internal events (organization of a hackathon for the integration of new trainees) or external events (recruitment forums, conferences, …). “I appreciate these side projects, it avoids creating a routine.”

Meetings – sometimes tedious -, networking, team or client management, analysis, information sharing… And if the common point between these three engineers was the multiplicity of their activities and interests? One thing is certain, they are not bored!


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2 commentaires

So what exactly is an engineer? – Assystem Jobs

[…] but it doesn’t enlighten us much about what the profession actually involves. What do engineers do in their day-to-day work? Going beyond the intrinsic differences between the various domains that the profession covers, are […]

George Afful

The information is worth sharing. It is an eye opener to have known what engineers go through each and everyday to keep the team moving and to ensure the successes of their projects.

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Marie Brun

Contract Engineering Lead - EPR HPC project Assystem

Edouard Gerardin

Technical coordinator, BIM Management Assystem

Richard Smith

Senior Stress Engineer Assystem

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