Serena Gough shares her Undergraduate of the Year 2017 experience

My name is Serena Gough and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a finalist for the TARGETjobs Construction, Engineering and Design Undergraduate of the Year Award 2017, which was sponsored by Laing O’Rourke.

After receiving an email from TARGETjobs, I decided to apply for this category, being the most appropriate for me from the twelve that were on offer. Initially, I completed the online application, which included a question asking me to describe one innovation that I expect to see in the construction industry in the next ten years to support the sustainability agenda. I decided to write about advancements in the usage of nanosensors to remotely monitor structures, thus reducing asset management costs and increasing safety. I also had to write about my favourite project from the industry, giving reasons for my choice. With a wealth of national and global schemes from which to choose, I struggled to reach a decision. However, although less known, the project that had inspired me to be a civil engineer was the stabilisation of Jackfield, part of Ironbridge Gorge, which is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spending time at this site while completing work experience and a later summer placement, plus completing an extended project on the topic during my final year at school, made it the obvious choice.

I was then invited to complete some psychometric tests. I felt quite pressured by this prospect, as it was in the middle of ‘exam season’, so I had little spare time to practise. With time running short and reminders from TARGETjobs becoming ever more frequent, I ‘took the plunge’ and answered the questions to the best of my ability.

Happily, the selection panel were pleased with my responses, as I was delighted to discover that I was through to the final stage of the application process, which meant attending an assessment centre at one of the central offices of Laing O’Rourke in Dartford, Kent. The day comprised of three parts: a group exercise, an individual interview and an individual presentation. The presentation in particular gave me confidence in my own ability to prepare and deliver information under pressure and in a limited timeframe. The assessment centre was a totally new experience for me and will be of great advantage for when I find myself in similar situations in the future.

I received a communication telling me that, as one of the finalists, I was invited to the presentation ceremony at the spectacular East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf. This was a grand occasion with excellent hospitality and ample opportunity to meet and network with company professionals and other high-achieving undergraduates. It was attended by ex-Blue Peter presenter, Konnie Huq, who gave an inspirational talk about her own career path.

I would recommend to everyone that they should submit an application. The entire procedure gives an invaluable insight into the graduate recruitment process and develops transferable skills that will enhance your future career, plus you’ll secure great friendships along the way!

Where are they now?

Serena is currently undertaking a summer placement with Network Rail.