Nicole and Max spent the summer gaining hands-on experience of civil and structural engineering during a paid internship with international business, Pinnacle Consulting Engineers.
Meet the Students
Nicole Rix is a third-year engineering undergraduate at Cambridge. She plans to go into structural engineering and applied for a summer placement at Pinnacle to gain insight into the sector. She is from Welwyn Garden City, where one of Pinnacle’s UK offices is located.
Max Krefting is entering his second year on the same course. He is unsure which engineering specialism he wants to pursue, so wanted his placement to give him good general experience and develop his transferable skills. He split his time between Pinnacle’s Welwyn and London offices.
Why do you want to be an engineer?
Nicole: Engineering is about constantly solving problems, helping to understand and build new things that will impact society positively. Engineering affects every part of people’s daily life, making them easier and more efficient – whether in healthcare, construction, structural developments, or new technology. Engineering is always relevant.
Max: Engineering to me means developing and implementing solutions that meet the needs of society and the planet. I want to use engineering to eliminate our negative impact on the natural world, with the goal of living in a circular society where we use energy and material resources efficiently. This is a necessity for the future of civilisation on our planet.
Why did you choose pinnacle for your summer placement?
Nicole: I applied to Pinnacle after a recommendation from a previous Cambridge intern who mentioned they highly enjoyed their experience and learned a lot. Pinnacle works on interesting projects in a variety of sectors – and their offices were local, which was a bonus!
Max: I met one of Pinnacle’s senior engineers at the University Engineering Careers Fair in the October before my internship. I was interested by the fine details of the digital model of a data centre being displayed: the size of beams, the depth of the foundations, the arrangement of internal facilities. Civil and structural engineering is important in creating a net zero environment, and so I applied to gain further insight.
Describe your experience
Being trusted with live projects was insightful and I felt that I was having a real impact on the company.
Nicole: I worked on a wide range of live projects for the structural and civil teams, at different development stages, giving me wide exposure to the different processes a structure must undergo even before construction begins on site. I learned how to use a variety of software packages to design and check steel and concrete frames, foundations, beam-work, 3D digital models, and other aspects of a development. All the calculations and design checking I did were followed by a site visit to Dublin to see the impact of my work in the live environment. Being trusted with live projects was insightful and I felt that I was having a real impact on the company. My mentor was always willing to help with any questions, and the intern programme was tailored to what I was most interested in and drawn to learn.
Max: I started by working through an introductory course to the Tekla Structural Designer software, which is used to model, analyse, and design structures. Soon after, I was given live project work to do, on a new data centre. I iteratively designed the accompanying office block under the guidance of the team in London – meeting the clients, architects, and civil engineering teams to meet the client’s evolving needs. I also spent time with the sub-ground civil engineering team – gaining exposure to their range of work including drainage, sewerage, highways, and site landscape design. I learned how to conduct a flood risk assessment, considering site topography and geology, and how to design drainage systems, considering the worst-case storm scenario. I also spent time with Pinnacle’s sustainable engineering team. A further highlight was visiting a live site, where I could see the foundations I had designed actually being built.
How will your experience shape your studies and career?
Nicole: I came to Pinnacle with no experience in the software used to model and analyse the structures being built and felt nervous about picking it up. However, after the first week I had already mastered the basics of Tekla Structural Designer and by week seven had exposure to most of the software packages the company uses. I now feel more confident in working with unfamiliar materials and different environments. It was insightful to see the collaboration that happens throughout the industry where there are many individuals involved in a construction project. I have learned that I would love a job that demands the same problem-solving skills required in this internship.
Max: I have gained a valuable appreciation of the challenges that the built environment faces in reaching carbon net zero. Looking ahead, my time at Pinnacle has made me aware of the impact and opportunities large scale infrastructure projects can have, and I think I may like to get involved in such sustainability-focused projects in the future. Whether I approach this from a structural, energy, or materials track, I am undecided!
What advice would you give to people weighing up their career options?
try as many different internships as possible to gain a broad understanding of the range of engineering specialisms
Nicole: For anyone wanting to pursue an engineering career, I would advise them to apply for an internship in the sub-sector they are most drawn to and get hands on experience. The engineering degree course equips you with the knowledge and problem-solving skills to apply to the job, but it is insightful to see the practical application of this, and the collaboration that occurs. The additional learning gained on the job is invaluable.
Max: Experience in the workplace is extremely helpful as it shows what a potential career could look like. The advice I have been given is to try as many different internships as possible to gain a broad understanding of the range of engineering specialisms, to help me decide what I may like to pursue. I am very grateful to the team at Pinnacle Consulting Engineers for providing me an insight into their world.
Learn more about graduate careers and placement opportunities at Pinnacle on their website: www.pinnacleconsultingengineers.com/careers/