John Lowe

Associate Director, Level Crossings team

Describe your route into engineering.
My route into engineering started at a very early age when I became interested in bridges and anything to do with railways and canals – the latter because I used to walk to school every day along the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal; the first canal to be built in England. I also lived very close to, and walked around, an area called Chat Moss, a well-reported section of the Manchester to Liverpool route – the world’s first inter-city passenger railway. By living close to England’s first canal and a famous railway route I was probably destined to be an engineer! My ‘A’ level subjects were Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry as I wanted to do an engineering degree at university. I subsequently took a 4-year degree course in Civil & Structural Engineering at Bradford University and, after getting my degree, joined the railway industry as a graduate civil engineer. The rest is history!

How is engineering different from what you expected?
It isn’t – I expected a rewarding career – and I got one!

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is creating designs that will ultimately be constructed and serve the general public. I also thoroughly enjoy going into schools to give children an insight into what an engineer does and to encourage them to consider engineering as a career. Mentoring the young people who join the industry is also something I take great satisfaction from.

How has your job changed as you’ve progressed?
There have been many changes since I joined the industry in 1979 – many for the better. For instance, people were allowed to openly smoke cigarettes in the office and for many years I sat next to a heavy smoker. I also had to create engineering drawings by hand on tracing paper using pencil and pen. If you made a mistake it could take hours to correct. CAD has eliminated that heartache. Also, when writing letters to a client you had to first write a draft letter which then went to a central typing pool in another building which then came back several days later typed up. This then was posted to the client – the whole process from drafting to the client receiving the letter was several days – and then it took several days for a reply! Emails have changed all that.

What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Go for it! Engineering is such a wonderfully rewarding career that could lead you to work and live anywhere in the world!

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