Finding inspiration in your career

11 October 2022

Assistant Structural Engineer, Leyre Hurtado Alonso, has enjoyed stepping out of her comfort zone and shares how she’s embraced all the challenges engineering has thrown at her.

Growing up, I was familiar with the engineering world because my dad works for a company that designs robots. The company would organise family days where I was able to see first-hand how the whole design and assembling process worked. Being able to chat with his colleagues and have a perspective of how different people can make an idea come together fascinated me, and my dad realised I was interested so he encouraged me to follow the path of engineering.

What ultimately made me choose the construction industry for a potential career was a teacher I had in high school who was very passionate about his subject and transmitted that to his students in our drawing classes. He has always been an inspiration to me and helped me with my transition into college too.

A rewarding career

Besides engineering, I love travelling and meeting new people. That’s why, after graduating in 2018 with a Civil Engineering and Technical Architecture Degree from Burgos University in Spain, I decided to move to Ireland and start working for Waterman Moylan as a Structural Engineer which would also allow me to develop my skills in a foreign language. I’ve travelled to many countries within Europe and enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone because meeting people from different countries is a very rewarding experience. That is one of my favourite things about Ireland; you can find a lot of diversity here, especially in Dublin. Something else that attracted me to Ireland is that I already spoke English, which made everything a bit easier for me. It was challenging to start working here at first as all the technical vocabulary I knew was in Spanish, but I have gradually become familiar with the terminology and now feel more comfortable working in English than my native language!

In my current role as an Assistant Structural Engineer, I mainly focus on helping to provide design solutions and supporting the construction stages for our residential projects around Dublin. Although there are lots of things to enjoy through each phase, I particularly enjoy working on the preliminary stages as this is when the key design decisions are made and we can present the client with alternatives. It allows me to learn a lot about concept design and I find it very interesting, especially when the projects then reach construction because I get to see everything we’ve made come to life – it’s the best way to understand how everything translates from paper to a real building. I’m currently working on a project at construction stage where I’ve helped designed the elements in reinforced concrete and now get to go on site to physically see how the steel looks in place, further to accessing any problems that might come up due to transportation or the weather.

Overcoming challenges

Once I started working, I found that many of the design challenges were as I had expected, but I didn’t know about the side of the job where I got to work with people. As an engineer, we have to work together with other members of the design team, as well as the team on site, to come up with solutions that work for everybody. Although this has presented many challenges over the years because everybody has different ways of working and managing people, as well as different styles of communication, it has equally given me the biggest rewards. I feel like our people are the best asset Waterman Moylan has, and I have really enjoyed working with my team over the years because they are more than colleagues to me; I have made some very close friends here and am grateful to be able to learn so much from them.

Part of my job is also to mentor new engineers and this year I had the opportunity to guide a Student Engineer as part of Moylan’s internship programme. I’ve really enjoyed this experience because it provides me with a more in-depth insight into solving problems and allows me to see engineering in a new light. I used to work as a teacher before I moved to Ireland, so always loved working with people who are younger than me, and it is especially rewarding to serve as an example within my company and see that someone might be inspired to follow in my footsteps. It also benefits my job too as I get to learn about the new techniques and modules being taught in university.

I would encourage anyone who is thinking about engineering to give it a try. In four years, I’ve overcome many challenges but have equally learnt so much, and it’s largely thanks to the people I’ve met; from my teacher at school to the student engineers, they’ve all played a major role in making me the engineer I am today.