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Meet WSPs Graduate Water Engineer Nicola Graham

Meet WSP's Graduate Water Engineer Nicola Graham

 March 22, 2022

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WSP is pleased to introduce Nicola Graham, a graduate water engineer based in London who is helping to mitigate the UK’s rising flood risk.

Here, Nicola shares how she took the plunge into water engineering and the tips she has for budding engineers.

The path to engineering

WSP Nicola Graham

Nicola’s journey to engineering began with a love of mathematics at school: “My competitive streak meant that I would sit in single-minded concentration during lessons in a race to finish the set questions before my best friend. On reflection, I was a bit of a nerd.” 

When the time came to select a university degree, engineering seemed like the natural option – applying her love of maths to solve practical real-world problems. However, before choosing to pursue a four-year degree in a subject that she had never studied, Nicola decided to apply for a placement at a top engineering consultancy to test the water. 

“Taking a year out before University was one of the best decisions I have made. It allowed me to gain an insight into my potential future career and develop skills and confidence which would prove to be invaluable when I began my degree.”

At 18, Nicola deferred her studies at the University of Bristol after accepting an offer to undertake a year-long engineering placement. She used this internship to ‘test-drive’ in the world of engineering and found that she enjoyed the diversity of the work and contributing to projects that could improve the lives of thousands of people, such as the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. 

During this placement, and as a result of discovering a love for civil engineering, Nicola changed degrees from Engineering Maths to Engineering Design, embarking on a course designed “to develop high-calibre engineers who can lead complex engineering projects that are vital to modern society.”

The path to water engineering

Throughout her time at university, Nicola undertook several engineering placements working in a number of sectors including geotechnics, bridges and water teams in a search to identify her favourite discipline. Although she undertook fascinating projects for each team (such as the design of a bat cave for bridges), it was water engineering that really captured her passion because of its close relationship with the natural environment and its potential impact on society in mitigating the effects of climate change.  

Nicola had an entire youth spent submerged in water as a competitive swimmer and so, it seemed like a natural fit.

This led Nicola to accept a scholarship from the WSP Water Team, and to subsequently join the team in London on a full-time basis as a graduate engineer. Since then, Nicola has been involved in a broad variety of projects including large-scale flood alleviation, sustainable drainage system design, river and scour engineering, and the provision of fish and eel passes “to help restore the UK’s eel population, (you’re welcome).”

In her penultimate year of university, Nicola’s passion for water engineering led to her being awarded the Engineering Leaders’ Scholarship by the Royal Academy of Engineering to fund her continuing professional development activities. Nicola is using this to attend leadership workshops in London and to visit river restoration projects around Europe where she hopes to catch up with a variety of rewilding initiatives.

Connecting colleagues in a post-lockdown workplace

Nicola has also recently assumed the role of Professional Growth Network Lead for Chancery Lane, providing various networking and learning events for London colleagues. 

Alongside work duties, Nicola is dedicated to fostering a sociable environment within the London offices. As a member of the social committee for DSQ she organised a cheese and wine evening, which was “unsurprisingly a great success,” as was her team’s Christmas party which she also helped to organise.

Next steps

Nicola’s next steps are focussed on gaining Chartered Engineer status with the ICE, as well as continuing to make a difference to the UK’s human and eel populations and wild swimming at every opportunity.

Join talented graduates like Nicola at WSP 

Does Nicola's engineer career path excite you?

Join WSP and embark on an exciting professional journey in a STEM career. 

Apply now


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