How Pooja balanced an MSc in Engineering Management, a job in industry… and a social life

Pooja at Mott MacDonald, the Balloon Fiesta and presenting in a lecture

How Pooja balanced an MSc in Engineering Management, a job in industry… and a social life

International student Pooja Prakash, didn’t wait until she’d completed her MSc in Engineering Management to explore the job market. Despite a busy schedule, her can-do attitude and organised approach meant she still had time to have fun.

Pooja took her degree in Civil Engineering in India and has recently completed her MSc in Engineering with Management at the University of Bristol.  She is now working at Mott MacDonald, a job which she started part-time while still studying. She talked to us in her final term and explained how she achieved the perfect work-life balance.

On the right course

I joined the MSc Engineering with Management on the Infrastructure Systems pathway, which is one of several optional pathways. For me it was the perfect combination of engineering and business.  I had the chance to try out management techniques in a classroom environment and receive quality feedback. Part of the course involves working as part of a team which gives me industrial insight and practical skills that are invaluable in the workplace. There have been many occasions where I applied the knowledge gained from various courses in real world context. The University of Bristol consistently ranks in the top five for engineering in the UK and is targeted by employers who know that students will have the right skillset.

Pooja talks about her MSc

The programme offers extracurricular opportunities to interact and learn from experts. Today, for instance, I was working on a collaborative plan for my project at Mott MacDonald, and I used techniques taught during an interactive workshop on managing complex project using Agile Project Management. It is exciting when you are not only able to apply the knowledge, but also use industrial skills such as Agile, to present results in an efficient way. This term I am working on my dissertation and there are no scheduled classes. So, my typical week now looks like this – two days of work, three days of study and the rest for personal activities.

The course units are very well structured and the teaching staff are always there to answer queries and offer careers advice. Now I feel confident I understand the business models of companies when I come across them.

Getting on the career ladder

My role at Mott MacDonald is Graduate Civil Engineer. I am currently leading projects dealing with the design of water treatment works for Welsh Water. I’m involved in the planning and management of the project, which includes meeting clients, identifying scope items, creating plans to deliver those items, and managing the tasks throughout the project until handover.

Pooja Prakash
Pooja Prakash

When I applied, there was no mention of part-time opportunities in the job description. But I took the chance and asked about it during my interview. I was able to give them evidence of my time management skills. They appreciated my interest and commitment and gave me the option to start part-time, even before I completed my course.

The MSc Engineering with Management course is for one year and the time just flies away but if you’re creative and you plan and manage your time carefully, you can always keep an eye out for opportunities. I made the most of the university careers fairs to talk directly to potential employers.  A company’s representatives can address any queries you have about the graduate route.  I also used LinkedIn to find out who was recruiting and talk to people that worked for those firms.

Managing a social life

Pooja at the SS Great Britain
Pooja at the SS Great Britain

It is very important to balance study, work and personal time. I think of it as the triangle of life. To plan my week, I list all my tasks on Outlook, even the plans I make with my friends. My friends have received many invitations such as ‘Day trip to Bath’ and ‘Pizza Party’. They often tell me that having these activities on their calendar helps them organise their weeks better. Scheduled breaks act like reminders and help keep you on track.

I’ve gained a lot of experiences and memories that I will cherish forever.

For anyone lucky enough to study at Bristol, I’d say that the city is an amazing place to explore. It is well connected so you don’t have to worry much about the commute. If you are staying in Bristol, try and visit the nearby cities. The University’s student clubs also organise many day trips with tickets at discounted rates. You should definitely make use of those trips to explore and collect memories along with focusing on your studies and work.