By Julie Verrill

After working in an established HR career for the past 8 years I have made the transition from a non-technical role to a technical role, in Cundall’s Transportation department.

In all honesty, about four years ago, I hadn’t a clue what Engineers did and how many different disciplines existed! It wasn’t until I started in Cundall’s HR department that I really had my eyes opened. In my previous HR role at Cundall, I was responsible for coordinating the Graduate Assessment Centre’s that we run on an annual basis and I would see many aspiring engineers enter the doors and truth be told, I was often thinking in my head, ‘I would love to do this!’

I don’t feel I qualify to be providing ‘advice’ at this early stage in my career however I would like to offer words of encouragement to anyone thinking of making a career transition and here are some things I have learnt based upon my own experience so far:

  • Think about what is important to you and rather than thinking, ‘I would love to be an Astronaut’, (perhaps, a bad example as I’m sure this would be pretty awesome) think about what that sort of career might give you. Don’t necessarily start with a solution and it sounds obvious but, think about your motivation, what really matters to you in a career and think about why you want to do it. After obtaining my Geography degree at Newcastle University several years ago, like a lot of students, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I always knew I wanted to utilise my degree in some way. I feel extremely lucky that I knew the way Cundall worked and had a ‘foot in the door’. I knew the different types of engineering roles Cundall employed and what each involved so this gave me a huge advantage and hope of narrowing down what I thought I would enjoy. Ultimately, transportation had good links with my degree whilst also not being as mathematical as some of the other disciplines.Talk is cheap. I was very guilty of this. I had been talking about making a move for over two years but did absolutely nothing about it. Actions speak louder than words and I always used the excuse that it wasn’t the right time, I didn’t feel I was capable and I thought I would struggle with the maths element. I made the initial step by speaking to a few engineers who gave me some confidence and I did some general reading on engineering principles. There is also a great website that facilitates various online courses called Coursera, which I found very useful. I finally made the move by getting in touch with Cundall and I was offered the opportunity to interview for a trainee position.


  • I’d say that I’m a very risk averse character by nature and you certainly would not catch me doing a sky dive, although I like the idea of it! Diving into the relatively unknown is a scary prospect but try not to get caught up (too much) in the finances, thoughts of failure and what other people might think. You will always be able to make it work and your life will adapt around you.

This time last year I would never have thought I would be using CAD, validating site layout plans and conducting vehicle swept path analysis, designing junctions or undertaking statistical analysis! I still have a very long way to go and I am currently studying a Civil Engineering course at Newcastle College and I’ve registered for the Cundall Diploma. Thankfully, I have some incredibly supportive work colleagues and management at Cundall (not to mention the support from friends and family) and I could not have made this move without them. My job is varied, challenging and fast-paced and I couldn’t recommend engineering more.


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Julie Verrill, Transportation, Women in Engineering


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