Silvian Grosu

MEng (Hons) Civil Engineering, 2013

What path has your career taken since graduation?

I graduated with first class honours MEng Civil Engineering from the University of Edinburgh in the summer of 2013. A couple of months before graduation I secured interviews with several different engineering and construction companies and was offered a graduate structural engineer position with Wardell Armstrong in their Edinburgh office.

At the time of writing, I have been with Wardell Armstrong for around eight-and-a-half years. I found it to be a positive and helpful environment which helped develop my career and was also offered the opportunity to work on varied and interesting structural engineering projects, from small residential inspections and alterations to large multi-million pound new-build developments.

I was promoted from Graduate Engineer to Project Engineer in 2016, and subsequently promoted again to Senior Engineer in 2018.

What is your current role and what does your work involve?

My current responsibilities as a Senior Structural Engineer include leading and managing the structural design for a variety of building structures projects, mostly in the education, industrial and residential sectors. I have had significant experience in the design and detailing of Structures in steel, timber, RC and masonry, either through complex 3D modelling software, or a combination of 2D packages and hand calculations.

My role also includes client-facing responsibilities, such as liaising with the contractor and the other members of the design team, usually by attending client and technical meetings and site inspections. I also routinely carry out structural surveys on projects ranging from large live sites to small private residential, and produce structural reports as well as reviewing other engineer’s reporting.

A typical week can take several different directions, depending on the type of project we are currently involved in. We generally have one or two team resource meetings to plan out the work and map out the priorities, depending on everyone’s workload. Then, for a typical structural project, I would engage with the architect / client / contractor in order to obtain the key information that we require in order to undertake our structural design.

Once that has been received, I spend some time reviewing any key issues, and then delegate to and instruct technicians and junior engineers on what the deliverables are and how they should approach the design. I then periodically review their work, helping them with any design problems they may have. Depending on the size and stage of the project I may also be involved in attending progress meetings or undertaking site inspections to assess how construction work is proceeding

What experiences do you feel helped you get to your current position?

There were several things that were key to my development during my University years, as follows:

  • I decided on my pathway fairly early in my course, around years two and three. This was normally around the time where you get to experience the full spectrum of the civil engineering modules, from structures to hydraulics, and soil to project management. In order to maximise my technical structural skills, when I reached my final years I chose to study and focus mainly on the Structural courses.
  • I was also involved in playing intramural football throughout the duration of my degree, mainly for Engineering FC. Being involved in weekly games and training session helped me build a reliable network of friends and also improve my teamworking and social skills.
  • I was also involved with the Edinburgh University Chess Club (EUCC) throughout the duration of my degree, where I was involved in social club nights, as well as competitive local and national tournaments. I also held leading positions with the Society, first as Secretary, then President.
  • I undertook a three-month summer placement between my fourth and final years with a subcontractor specialised in the design and construction of mechanical and electrical installations. Although only partly related to my degree and almost the antithesis of my current job, I managed to gain very useful AutoCAD drawing skills, as well as plenty of site experience. I was also involved in the bidding and procurement process.

How have you used the skills and/or knowledge developed during your degree in your career?

The technical skills that I gained during my study years are essential to the day-to-day work within the design office. Courses like Computer Methods 2 & 3, Behaviour & Design of Structures 3, Soil Engineering 2 and many more taught me the essentials of structural engineering. The multitude of group design projects also improved my understanding of how the design of individual elements fits within real-life scenarios. The group projects are also the first time you are exposed to working with other like-minded professionals (e.g. mechanical and electrical engineers, architects etc.), which is a vital skill that you will be using throughout your career (engineering or otherwise).

The soft skills that I developed during my formative years are also key to progressing as a structural engineer. Whilst technical knowledge should underpin any engineering solution, the successful engineer will know how to discuss and present alternative solutions to both technical and non-technical stakeholders. Given the size of construction projects, it is unlikely that you will be working in isolation and will therefore need to use communication and presentation skills (oral and written) extensively in order to inform others. Aspects such as health and safety, sustainability and project management are always key deciding factors for any structural designs, therefore it is important that the structural engineer, whilst a technical specialist, also possesses complementary knowledge regarding other aspects of the construction process.

What do you think was the most valuable aspect of your time at Edinburgh in preparation for your career?

I think the most important aspect of my time at the University of Edinburgh was the significant range of activities on offer, and the possibility to mix both lectures and coursework with sports clubs, societies work and part-time and industrial work. As a structural engineer, you need to be technically sound, but also flexible, communicative and open to challenges – and able to multi-task.

Alongside the other skills gained from the University courses, even the ability to compartmentalise between the different areas of engineering and juggling between academic and social activities is a very useful skill in itself.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in your area of work?

I think there are several key skills that prospective structural engineers should look to improve, mainly:

  • Hard working attitude
  • Problem solving skills
  • Good technical understanding
  • Drawing or sketching skills
  • Communication and teamwork skills

From an extracurricular point of view, I would advise students to pursue any combination of activities (e.g. societies, clubs etc) which they find enjoyable and try and extract the useful skills, where possible. Structural engineers need to be extremely versatile so students should always keep an open mind and develop a natural curiosity to the way things work.

From an employment point of view, generally any type of work experience is very useful and, in the eyes of the employer, will likely complement the candidate’s academic knowledge. Summer internships or placements with employers within the same field (for example, engineering consultancies, contractors) are particularly useful and will make any resume stand out.

Even a few weeks’ worth of internship with a business (local or otherwise) will expose students to the practicalities within the construction industry, the rewarding and challenging nature of site work, and the application of their hard-earned academic skills. Placements will also boost your networking skills and could potentially lead to a full-time job following the end of your studies.

I am very proud to have achieved chartership as there are certain roles that can not be undertaken if you are not a Chartered Engineer. If students have an interest in developing their careers further then joining a company that supports institution training agreements and chartership programmes is essential.


Silvian Grosu
Silvian Grosu