Roli Binitie joined our Brighton and Hove team as an engineering graduate in 2015 and recently qualified as a fully-fledged structural engineer. This article takes a closer look at what inspired Roli to become a structural engineer and how her career path has been shaped by working with Gyoury Self.
When it comes to career choices, structural engineering is not usually high on the radar – especially for women – but Roli was introduced to building design and construction at an early age.
My parents are both architects, so I grew up around buildings and design. One of my favourite things to do as a child was visiting a site when their work was under construction. For me, the work site was a ‘wonderland’ where I could see construction start and then watch the building grow with each subsequent visit.
Surprisingly, Roli did not choose to follow directly in her parent’s footsteps.
For a while I did consider being an architect as I do love design itself. But I realised I was more interested in actually getting a building from paper to the real world. The architects of old were also the structural engineers, and reading about, for example, the systems/structures that Leonardo Da Vinci designed, that was what really pulled me in.
Watching the construction of the beautiful Burj Al Arab was one of the key moments that helped this realisation. Yes, the architect had in theory created this beautiful structure, but it was the structural engineers who had to consider intelligent yet simple and elegant solutions, especially with the immense limitations faced, to bring the architect’s vision alive. I decided I wanted to do that too.
Roli did both her undergrad and masters degrees at University of Newcastle upon Tyne, attaining a BEng in Civil Engineering and an MSc in Structural Engineering. Still in the midst of her Masters when she applied to join Gyoury Self, she completed her studies whilst working alongside our engineering team.
When I came to the interview, I liked the atmosphere and something felt right about it. There was diversity in the people working there. Of course the projects they worked on seemed interesting and I was keen to work a variety of design projects.
Graduate training with Gyoury Self enables candidates to explore many facets of structural engineering. For Roli, it was a chance to discover what really makes her tick.
I like problem solving, so I enjoy site visits and figuring out how a structure works, working out how a proposed design fits with what is already there, and coming up with possible solutions. I love maths, so I prefer projects that involve calculations. I also like new build projects as they offer greater freedom in terms of pure engineering and determining how that structure stands. I like the freedom to explore and create.
Working alongside qualified engineers and gaining the right breadth of experience is a key part of Gyoury Self’s graduate training programme. For Roli, it has been essential to her career development as a structural engineer.
I have been able to work on a variety of projects, not just one specific type of design; from loft conversions and house extensions, to steel connections, residential new builds, retaining walls etc. Whenever I have questions, I can always get feedback from experienced engineers, and that can be really helpful.
As my experience has grown, I have gradually been given more responsibility, so I can essentially run a project from start to finish – from going on site visits and liaising with clients, to preparing schemes and final calculations and drawings.
I am now aiming to become a Chartered Structural Engineer, and Gyoury Self is very supportive of this. Although there is no set structure to achieve Chartership, they understand that I need to work on different types of projects to meet the core objectives. They are eager to continuously improve company strategy to help ensure employees achieve Chartership and are currently creating a matrix to help further this.
In terms of ‘woman in engineering’, Roli believes her experience has been a positive one and would encourage others to explore the opportunities that are available.
Of course I am privileged to live in a time where the mind-set about women in engineering has changed greatly – so I have been treated with respect and acceptance within the industry itself. There are still rare occasions when clients are surprised to see a woman engineer showing up. However, even with clients, a great majority of the time, it has been a positive experience with some clients even expressing such excitement and zeal with seeing a woman as an engineer, and the sign of change of times it represents.
Being a woman should not be a factor when considering whether one can become an engineer. Whether it is structural engineering, mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, etc., as long as you are interested in the subject and are willing to work hard, then there is nothing to stop you. Women are needed in all areas of the engineering as well as in other industries. Just consider some of the great inventions conceived by women – even at a time when they would have been actively discouraged from doing so. Today, the sky is the limit and women can pursue any career they wish to.
Once qualified as an engineer, the world can literally be your oyster. So what lies ahead for Roli Binitie?
I am originally from Nigeria so one of my aims has always been to bring back the knowledge gained to transform the built environment in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. There are already many beautiful structures in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, a lot of them concrete. But I want to be influential in the types of materials being used and the structures being built, designing elegant structures that both improve the aesthetics of the environment and inspire the next generation
I also want to help provide solutions to the problem of shanty towns through the design of simple structures that are efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
Finally, I aspire to work as part of a team on iconic structures, and help produce elegant solutions to the challenges faced. I want to be known for excellence, so my aim is to keep improving.
Are you interested in pursuing a career in Structural Engineering?
Visit our Careers page for more information about work experience, graduate training and other job opportunities with Gyoury Self.
ABOUT ROLI BINITIE
BEng Civil Engineering
MSc Structural Engineering
Joined Gyoury Self as a graduate trainee in 2015 and qualified as a structural engineer in 2018. Roli is currently working towards becoming a fully Chartered Structural Engineer.