James Murray
Civil Engineer

What was your dream career when you were younger?

Other than being a footballer, which wasn’t going to happen as I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career. I did know that I wanted a job that wasn’t always sitting in an office, and wasn’t always being outdoors (because of the Scottish weather), so ideally a job that would combine the two and have a balance of practical and technical skills.


What subjects did you study at school?

I did highers in Maths, English and Physics in 5th Year at high school.
I didn’t complete my 6th Year at high school.


Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

My father, who was a surveyor, and enjoyed his in-office/outdoor work balance. As I grew older, I wanted to do something that made a positive contribution to society.


How have the subjects you studied at school helped you in your career?

I chose Maths, English and Physics as they were (are) good core subjects that give you a range of options for further study, if that was what I would chose to do later on.

They were also the minimum requirements, at the time, of applying for and doing a civil engineering degree.


Please briefly describe your STEM journey since leaving school.

I did a BSc(Hons) Civil Engineering degree, then, to further my interest in environmental matters, I did an MSc in Public Health and Environmental Engineering. Upon completing Uni, I began working as a civil engineer, initially on sewerage and water supply projects (taking care not to mix the two together!), then latterly focussing on flooding risk management projects and project management.

During this time I progressed through the formal civil engineering training and professional review scheme to become a Chartered Engineer, which was challenging in terms of discipline and commitment, but ultimately rewarding in terms of professional recognition and career enhancement. Part of the requirement of maintaining Chartered Engineer status is a commitment to a programme of ongoing learning and development, and this probably also applies to any STEM job – there is always something new to learn.


What skills do you utilise most in your career? 

In the early stages of my career, it was mainly technical skills, drawing on maths and physics, but latterly it is more about project management, which requires organisational and ‘people’ skills to effectively communicate and collaborate to deliver projects with multiple partners / stakeholders.

A general knowledge of digital skills is also very useful in my day to day work.


What advice would you give to any young people considering a STEM career? 

Concentrate on a range of core subjects at school – as this should stand you in good stead for whatever you decide to do next – but don’t do subjects you actively don’t like, as it’ll probably just make you, and others around you, unhappy.

Even if you don’t get everything you want / need at school, there are always opportunities to learn and progress, if you are motivated to put in the effort.