The very best people have always appreciated the skills I brought from industry, but that wasn't necessarily universal. Even as a relatively mature PhD student, some academics saw me only as a PhD student. The further I've progressed, the more valued my skills have become. Perhaps because they have become more readily noticeable.
Dr Fleur Loveridge is a civil engineer who graduated into industry, but decided to return to university mid-career to complete a PhD and follow an academic pathway. With nine years’ experience as a consultant in geotechnical engineering, Fleur found her seniority and experience highly valuable in her move to academia.
After graduating with an MSc in Engineering Geology from the University of Leeds in 1999, Fleur joined Babtie Group in Lancashire. After 18 months, she moved to Mott MacDonald, where she worked her way up through the industry ranks and became a senior engineer in 2007. After many years in industry, Fleur reassessed her career in 2008 and made the leap into academia, taking a postgraduate research position at the University of Southampton.
During her time in industry, Fleur ran sizable projects and had developed a lot of practice knowledge and transferable skills. When moving into academia, she found the culture very different: “You can't deliver engineering projects in the real world unless you are part of a big team but when doing my PhD and postdoctoral work I found I was a lot more solitary. That is changing as I get more involved with large collaborative projects involving lots of people."
Reflecting on both her time in industry and academia, Fleur highlights the benefits of both. While she misses construction and the immediacy of industrial engineering projects, she has been able to keep her research practical and enjoys a lot more flexibility and freedom both intellectually and practically.
In academia, Fleur now drives her own research, defines what problems she thinks are important and then either writes about them, or works with students on them. Fleur explains that she now has more intellectual self-determination and a lot more flexibility around working hours than she ever did in industry.
Industry knowledge also feeds directly into Fleur's success with grant applications. Report writing and communication is an essential part of all engineering. In industry, it is essential to understand your audience and tailor what you produce based on your clients’ needs. This is not dissimilar to understanding what a grant funding body is looking for and tailoring your document to meet their requirements. “It's all about understanding the rules of the game and then playing within those rules. It's just the rules are different", Fleur explains.
Explore a timeline of Fleur's career