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Job title: Geotechnical SME (Subject Matter Expert)
What does a Geotechnical SME do?
I manage the EDF Geotechnical Team on the Hinkley Point C (HCP) site. This involves answering technical queries from contractors and undertaking geological field work for the construction records of the nuclear power station. Myself and my team of two geologists spend most of our time on site supervising mapping and logging of vertical slopes and horizontal formations, looking at the geology and hydrogeology. The slopes we map are up to 30m high, and the horizontal formations form the foundations for the nuclear power station. We are also involved in many other topics such as backfill around buildings using engineered site won material and the tunnelling works.
What qualifications and previous work experience did you need to get your job?
I left sixth form with A-levels in geography, chemistry and biology. I graduated from Bristol University with an MSci in Geology before joining a ground investigation contractor as a field Geotechnical Engineer. I then moved to a Geotechnical consultancy firm where I went on to do a part time MSc in Geotechnical Engineering. I became a Chartered Geologist (CGeol) in 2017 and joined EDF Energy for the construction of HPC.
What other skills or characteristics do you need in your job?
My time as a contractor and consultant really helped at HPC when I became the client because I have a range of different experiences working on different projects. That experience is really valuable for my job because I encounter such a variety of topics every day. For example; material re-use and laboratory testing, geological mapping, engineering geology, tunnelling, slope stability, hydrogeology etc.
I would say that you need to be enthusiastic (because it does rain and snow when you are on site), willing to try new things (even things not directly related to your role) and proactive.
What sort of organisation do you work for? Where else could you work as a Geotechnical SME?
Because I have experience (and qualifications) working as a Geologist, Engineering Geologist and Geotechnical Engineer, I have lots of job options. For example, I could go back into geotechnical consultancy working on foundation design and slope stability assessment, highways, mining, ground investigation supervision, to name a few. I have worked in residential, rail, highways and energy so far.
You’d be very surprised where you can be employed as a Geologist!
What do you enjoy about your job?
The variety. I like the mix of challenging my brain with technical queries and interpretative reporting, as well as field work and site supervision. It keeps you on your toes and you get to see so much!
What opportunities do you have to develop your skills in your job?
Lots! During my career so far I have had training for so many different things! From speed boat driving, working at height and how to drive a cherry-picker. I have even had training on how to escape from a helicopter crash in the sea (BOSIET). But I’ve also had technical training such as my MSc in Geotechnical Engineering and additional courses in tunnelling. It all depends on what opportunities you put yourself forward for and how hard you are willing to work!
What advice or extra information do you wish you’d had before starting this career?
I wish I had taken an A-level in maths. I am terrible at maths and it is not essential, but it really comes in handy.
Also, keep an open mind when looking for a job after Uni. There are so many different paths in industry and academia that you can take with a Geology degree, you don’t just have to go for the obvious. Play to your strengths and what you enjoy doing.