A Day in the Life of a Graduate Engineer

  • Event : Event
  • Remdial :
  • Structural :
  • Hydraulic :
  • All : All

What is it like to work as a Graduate Engineer at Partridge? What projects could you work on? What would you get up to in a typical day as a graduate? If those are the questions that you’re asking yourself, you’ve come to the right place! As a structural engineer I work with architects, artists, builders, project managers and clients to bring to life a wide variety of structures; from houses and hotels, to playgrounds, public artworks and giant inflatables!

Tilt Industrial Design, Liquorice allsorts playground, Rocky Point Road

Joel Adler, Viewfinder for Sculpture by the Sea Bondi 2019

Since finishing University, I have been working full time at Partridge as a Graduate Structural Engineer. I started working at Partridge during a summer internship at the end of my second last year of University and am currently working across both the structural and event divisions on projects of many different scales.

A typical day will start in the office with a cup of coffee in hand and a quick review of my emails. We may be working across a number of different projects at the same time, so staying up to date on all our projects is really important. For example, I might have received some questions via email outside of business hours that needs to be answered as soon as we get into the office because it affects a builder on site that same morning.

In the morning I might get stuck into some engineering design work in the office. This could involve using some engineering software to model and analyse a structure or doing calculations or sketches by hand. Once I’ve done any kind of engineering design work, I need to communicate that to the client through email, providing sketches or markups of drawings. In the later stages of a typical project, a draftsperson will be responsible for documenting our structural design in a set of engineering drawings. My role is then to communicate the engineering design to the draftsperson, to check the drawings have everything they need, and that it’s all documented correctly (while under the supervision of a more senior engineer!).

Adriano Pupilli Architects, Long Reef Surf Life Saving Club renewal render, ongoing project

Adriano Pupilli Architects and engineering preliminary sketch

Throughout a typical day in the office, I will be kept busy reviewing and marking up structural drawings, preparing engineering reports and certificates, or attending engineering or project meetings. These meetings might be in person, over a conference call, hosted at our client’s offices or on site. In the early phases of a new project, it’s typical to hold design meetings where all the consultants, the architects, the clients and the project manager meet to coordinate their parts and discuss any unsolved items and the development of the project moving forward.

In-house design meeting for Sydney Lunar Festival 2020

Discussing a project with a colleague

When a project is in its construction phase, an engineer will go out to the site to inspect and sign off on all of the critical structural aspects. As a graduate I will often go to sites accompanying more senior engineers, but have been increasingly attending sites by myself to inspect my own designs or other simpler structures that my colleagues have designed and documented. A typical residential back extension project might consist of a new concrete slab on ground with brick walls on the ground floor, a timber framed first floor, timber stud walls and a lightweight roof. As the design engineer of the project, you’d likely attend site a few different times during construction to inspect and sign off on the steel reinforcement for the slab on ground prior to the concrete pour, the timber framing for the first floor, and the roof framing.

Heading to a suspended slab reinforcement inspection

On-site at a new residence at Bulkara Road in Bellevue Hill with my colleague Aaron

The projects I have worked on at Partridge have been pretty diverse. I have worked on the removal of  load-bearing walls in existing houses and apartment buildings as well as brand new high-end residential houses. I’ve climbed inside an (empty) crocodile enclosure at the new Sydney zoo, I’ve inspected Christmas decorations at 1am in the morning, designed my fair share of giant inflatables and played a part in 5 back-to-back Sculpture by the Sea exhibitions (Bondi and Cottesloe).

This year Partridge worked with the City of Sydney and a range of artists and fabricators on the Sydney Lunar Festival lanterns, erected in Circular Quay to celebrate the Lunar New Year. A team of Partridge engineers designed the internal framework and hold-down of several new animal lanterns, and signed off on the installation of some existing lanterns. Partridge was also engaged by the 4A Centre for Contemporary Art to certify another temporary public artwork for the Lunar New Year. “Moon Gates,” by artist Louise Zhang, were a series of colourful gateways in the Darling Harbour Precinct. We received some sketches of the proposed structure, then from the office we undertook stability analysis using first principles to determine the adequacy of the proposed trusses, base plates and connections. We also calculated the required ballast for each freestanding structure to prevent overturning under wind load. I then went down the Darling Harbour during installation to check that everything was installed as per our design and provide a site sign-off.

Louise Zhang, ‘Moon Gates’, Darling Harbour during Sydney Lunar Festival 2020

Louise Zhang, ‘Moon Gates’, Darling Harbour during Sydney Lunar Festival 2020

I’m constantly learning and developing as an engineer. I ask my colleagues questions on a daily basis, even in the era of COVID while we are all working from home. Once a month, Partridge hosts an internal seminar usually based on a specific technical topic or recent projects. Earlier in the year I helped to present one of these internal seminars and my team chose the topic of ‘Sustainability in Construction’. We discussed ways to reduce our carbon footprint through the way we design and communicate with others. With Partridge I’ve also been able to get involved in different things like mentoring University students, corporate volunteering initiatives and attending events in house or externally with clients. A typical day isn’t really typical here, but it always keeps me on my toes!

Habitat for Humanity ‘Homes for Hope’ (IWD 2019) volunteering program where a team of Partridge staff prepped and painted the interiors of crisis accommodation

This accommodation is used by women who are homeless – often due to domestic violence

Partridge after work Friday drinks featuring our office neighbour’s dog, Cooper, who receives lots of pats and treats from me

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