Karina Augustine

Karina Augustine

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Design, Structural, Geotechnical

Career highlights

A day in my life

I graduated university during the pandemic, so I’ve only recently started to go into office.

In the morning I make myself tea and check the day's incoming emails and meetings. The emails are mostly from my teammates, as we communicate frequently to exchange ideas and information about the project.

I follow up with calls with my colleagues throughout the day. Sometimes there are lunchtime presentations which showcase cool technologies and concepts by colleagues from other teams and offices. I mostly spend the day using software to model and analyse tunnel structures including shafts and cross passages.

I also manage my time to work on non-project related items such as COWI's Carbon Tool and the Early Careers Network on a weekly basis. I finish around 6pm, which is great work-life balance.

The most complex thing I’ve made out of Lego

The Star Wars Imperial TIE Fighter Collector's Edition! Took me a week because it used to be hard to buy nice Lego kits in Jakarta, so I was enjoying the process.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

When I was in primary school, I visited Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and I was blown away by the massive scale of the rockets in the Rocket Garden.

But I was particularly interested in the modular parts of the International Space Station that was to be flown to orbit. It was a tiny space that had to accommodate the activities of many people with life-sustaining systems.

The construction and project delivery involved extensive collaboration between countries which was challenging especially after the Cold War. This cooperation is something that should be imitated to solve the climate crisis.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

The people! My colleagues in COWI are very good at working and managing a team that they’re enjoyable to work with. Everyone is very helpful and it's nice to collaborate with people who share the same interests in sustainable development as you.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

Investment in infrastructure leads to economic growth and improvements in people's quality of life. I like contributing to this cause and I hope my work today can improve sustainability in industry practice and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Plus, it’s always rewarding to see something you've designed get constructed.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also…

A plant mum.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

Machu Picchu in the Andean mountains, because it’s a beautiful site which features elegant engineering solutions. Hydrologists created canals for water supply, drainage, and irrigation for the terraces. The buildings featured anti-seismic design and robust foundations, all built without mortar or the wheel.

Work training/education and career

I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, so I graduated high school with the Indonesian curriculum. Unfortunately, this is not acknowledged by the UK, so I had to do a one-year foundation course, which I did at UCL (University College London). I continued to do my civil engineering master’s at UCL with a year abroad at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

During my 3rd year, I did a summer internship at COWI, which led to my current graduate role.

I’d recommend a career in civil engineering because...

You can be involved in a wide variety of projects which directly improve people's quality of life.

Many civil engineering projects when done well don't get too much recognition because the users would just feel no change in their daily lives. For example, flood prevention schemes, seismic- resistant structures, and proper drainage and wastewater management. But these systems are the foundations of a working society.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

That our uniform consists of hi-vis and hardhats. Of course, some engineers work on site, but many choose to be designers and project managers who work with design houses, architects, developers, and investors.

Anything else?

The fast fashion industry is one that needs to adapt to higher sustainable and ethical standards in their production. That's why I enjoy upcycling clothes with embroidery, which I picked up during lockdown. I accept commissions from my friends and make their old T-shirts a bit cooler by hand-embroidering little sketches.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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