Lifting the veil of convention in civil engineering

12 October 2022

After visiting awe-inspiring designs from across the world, Sona Nahas relocated from India to Dublin to follow her passion for civil engineering. Here she explains why she embraces new challenges from her internship to help build a life-long career.

I hail from the southernmost part of India called Kerala, where I was born and lived most of my life. In my younger years, my parents took me and my brother on several international tours. For someone coming from a country that follows conventional methods of construction, those trips were phenomenal and thought-provoking. The Eiffel Tower in France, cathedrals in Germany and the SEA Aquarium in Singapore, to name a few, were awe-inspiring and I wondered how the minds worked of the people who made these a reality.

It was on one of those trips that I realised that veil of convention was lifted for me and that there is a whole range of exciting possibilities waiting to be explored. This sparked my interest and with every new place I visited, what started as the enthusiasm of an adolescent girl to see beautiful places, grew into an all-out passion to learn about and be a part of this world of creation. Thus, when the time came for me to decide what to do after 12th grade, the choice was obvious – to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering.

Exciting possibilities waiting to be explored

Although I was directed to the civil sector for my desire to master the technologies and be a part of the vast and boundless construction industry, it was the environmental areas that captured and held my interest. After graduating from the University of Kerala, I saw that civils was not all about construction, it was also about the preservation of the environment, managing natural resources and improving quality of life.

After completing my bachelor’s degree, I got a campus placement at Infosys Limited, a multinational leading software company that is headquartered in Bangalore, India, and decided to work there. Even though I’d spent four years studying civil engineering, at the time, I thought this was something I had to do so I wouldn`t look back in later years and think of it as a missed opportunity. Adapting to a completely foreign environment and learning new technologies which were nowhere near my area of expertise was challenging, but I enjoy a good challenge. That was why the one year I originally planned to work extended to three. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, I always had a nagging feeling that civil engineering was where I belonged and, as years passed, the thoughts of ‘what could’ve been’ took over. When I felt I had gained a sufficient mastery in IT, I decided to take a leap of faith and move back to my roots. In a blur of college admissions, decisions over acceptance offers and a visa application, I moved to Ireland.

Every day is a learning opportunity

I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at University College Dublin (UCD) and, in the first year of the course, I decided to start an internship. I came across Waterman Moylan in the university portal and the job description matched my interests. A quick Google search showed raving reviews about the company, so I didn’t think twice before applying and have loved my internship so far. Despite not having any prior work experience in civil engineering, every day and every project is a learning opportunity. It doesn’t hurt that I got assigned to a wonderful team where everyone is ready to jump in and guide me if I get stuck, and boy did I get stuck in the beginning! Every time I’ve started a new task, they have taken the time to explain what it is and why it’s needed, bringing me closer to the team as a result.

This internship has helped me bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical aspects of engineering. Being in the civils unit, my job primarily involves designing roads and drainage, carrying out risk assessments and preparing various reports. Having only completed one semester at UCD before I started, I didn’t study many modules relating to the work I do now, but it’s all in line with my interests and what I’ll be studying when I go back to university at the end of the year. Highways and water-related projects appeal to me the most, and now I am eager to see how I can learn more about these subjects, as well as changing the way I approach them.

I am excited to be working with Waterman Moylan and don’t see that changing anytime soon, but I would like to try out different sectors within civil engineering to make an informed decision before choosing a permanent career path. I feel I would fit quite well into a managerial role and, no matter which path I take, I know that’s where I am ultimately headed.

Sona Nahas