Monday, January 11, 2016

We catch up with Jessica Dowdy who won the 2015 Construction, Engineering and Design Undergraduate of the year Award.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since I first found out about the Undergraduate of the Year Awards and what a year it has been! Now that I’ve got emails regarding this year’s awards hitting my inbox, its bringing back memories of how this incredible experience started.

As I was already in the process of completing my year in industry, most of the emails I received from TARGETjobs were interesting to read yet no longer relevant for me. However, seeing a couple of emails with the words ‘Undergraduate of the Year Awards’ in the subject line quickly grabbed my attention. After reading through the entry criteria online and gaining more of an insight into how the competition worked, I realised this was too good an opportunity to miss so entered myself right away. The previous year I had been entered into a competition for a different award so I knew how beneficial this process would be for networking and for developing my own interpersonal skills. This competition involved filling in personal information and answering questions by the sponsor, Laing O’Rourke which is then followed by a series of online tests. Personally, I didn’t feel the tests had gone well at all so I pushed it all to the back of my mind as I highly doubted I would be progressing any further. As you can imagine, It took me by great surprise when I received the email informing me that I had passed this round and was invited to partake in an assessment day – I was ecstatic! The assessment day was such a great experience, not only was it an opportunity to develop my interview techniques and network with other students but we were also fortunate enough to gain an insight into the very technical and innovative engineering techniques through a factory tour of the Explore Industrial Park, where the off-site manufacturing takes place. The other candidates were highly impressive and extremely talented which made the day even more enjoyable.

The talent I was amongst during this assessment was of such a high standard, I couldn’t believe it when I discovered I had made the final 10! Receiving the invitation through the post and learning that Fiona Bruce would be presenting was the icing on the cake as I have been inspired by her work over the last few years. The day itself was wonderful. Sitting in a room surrounded by so many gifted, ambitious and hard-working finalists was extremely motivational; not to mention the attendees from sponsor companies who have all achieved great success in their careers. It was a great networking opportunity and very inspiring, particularly as a female – hearing Fiona’s speech and watching a high number of females collecting the top prize! Hearing my name called out as the winner of my category was totally unexpected and so surreal. It wasn’t until the later stages of the evening when other candidates mentioned it that I realised I would now be given the opportunity to complete an international summer placement with Laing O’Rourke in Australia. I had never thought I would actually win therefore this had not even crossed my mind – I couldn’t quite believe it!

Construction Undergraduate of the Year

Shortly after the excitement of the awards (and once it had finally sunk in!), I began planning my trip. During the summer I flew over to the land down under for 7 weeks where I worked at LORAC’s Sydney office on a rail infrastructure project located within Sydney Suburbs. The experience was invaluable, allowing me to enhance my knowledge substantially within my sector whilst meeting hugely inspirational people and developing my own personal skills through the process. Everyone at LORAC was extremely welcoming and made me feel like part of the team, allowing me to have my own responsibilities and tasks from the get-go. Hopefully one day in the future I will have the opportunity to return on a more permanent basis, but for now the focus is to complete my degree and continue building for my career through maximising every opportunity that comes my way to ensure I am continuously learning and improving my portfolio to make sure I stand out from the crowd.

I would encourage anyone in the position I was in last year would be to apply for the award relevant to you because there is nothing to lose but so much to gain – and to enjoy the process while you are doing so!

Thank you again to TARGETjobs and Laing O’Rourke for the fantastic opportunity and for a well organised and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Good luck to the candidates for the 2016 awards!