I tel kids across the country that there’s never a dull day as a civil engineer - Kalina Dimitrova

Like most little girls I used to play with dolls. I had quite a few of them but while my friends would worry about what their dolls were wearing, I always wanted to build them a dream house or set up a high street for them to go shopping. I would set out the shops along the street, decide how many floors they needed to be and also add some cafes and restaurants because you can’t go shopping on an empty stomach. Other times I would just try and create a big shopping centre to fit everything in. Everything was made out of simple cardboard boxes, glued and taped together.

Kalina Dimitrova, a Graduate Civil and Structural Engineer at Goodson Associates based in Aberdeen

These were my first steps into engineering. I’ve always loved to create and when I realised there was a degree that would allow me to improve the surrounding environment for not only me but others, I decided to study civil engineering. Another aspect that attracted me are all the different specialisms within civil engineering. There is never a dull day and the variety of projects you can work on goes on and on from the AWPR in Aberdeen, V&A in Dundee, Ayrshire Central Hospital, the Forth Road Bridge, to all the new housing developments all around Scotland. This is an industry working in the present and looking to the future to make sure our lives are improved and tackling the current issues like homelessness and climate change.

The sector has also gone a long way in terms of diversity. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man, you have to love what you do in order to deliver the best. I am proud to say that I love my career and my job. Because of this, and the passion I feel about the industry, I’m a champion for this profession. I truly believe the more diverse team you have the more added values they will bring to a project. It’s just a matter of encouraging women to start this kind of career.

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My passion for civil engineering led me to become a STEM Ambassador, promoting Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths. I’m a very optimistic and friendly person and that translates well when I speak to younger people and children about STEM. There are different kinds of activities you do as an ambassador. Some can take the whole day at a given school, others can be as short as a half an hour Skype/Teams call from my workplace. I try to vary the activities I take part in, to gain different kinds of experiences, but also to stay excited and curious about new challenges. What I like the most it that I get to meet new people and share my insight and love for the industry with them. Being a STEM Ambassador is more than just going to schools and talking about your job — it’s about crushing stereotypes students have, igniting that spark of interest in science, and talking honestly about what they want to do in life.

I am neither their parent nor their teacher, so they are often more direct with me, perceive me more like a “senior student” than a “supervisor”. It’s a way for them to open up about having problems with classmates, being uncertain about what to do after school, or sharing their insecurity and lack of confidence.

If I had to give advice to women entering the field, it would be to not let the men intimidate you. Don’t be afraid to get stuck in, stand your ground, and if it’s what you want to do, just do it! And finally, be confident in your abilities. Don't give up when people challenge you. Believe that you are special and able to help, after all you made it all the way here!

Kalina Dimitrova, a Graduate Civil and Structural Engineer at Goodson Associates based in Aberdeen and the Institution of Civil

Engineering in Scotland’s STEM Ambassador of the Year

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