Ask the Expert: Civil Engineer

We ask Maria Gkovedarou, UK Programs Manager at Bentley Systems, about how her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering in Greece led her to using Digital Twins at the University of Cambridge, and what advice she would give to her younger self.

1. Why did you choose to study Civil Engineering?

I studied Civil Engineering back in Greece and then I joined University of Cambridge for a research project in Digital Twins and then I continued for my Master’s. I studied back in 2009 when construction in Greece was in the highest rank of the economy and it was swarmed in construction sites.

I was also very lucky having grown up in a family full of engineers as it made my career choice quite easy. Specifically, my mother is a Civil Engineer and created such a good role model for me! I remember visiting the construction sites with her and sometimes I remember even discussing the projects with the construction workers. All of this formed my early years and helped me to choose Civil Engineering as a career.

2. What do you do on a daily basis?

Slightly different to a traditional Civil Engineering role, my current main job is to engage with Academic Institutions, Universities and schools and promote our software to Engineering and Architecture students. I usually engage with students and professors and help them to find the right digital solution for them. My goal is to help students in their infrastructure career and this is why I am trying to connect them with our industry users.

I have been working with Machine Learning and AI algorithms in Civil Engineering projects like Road infrastructure. One of my projects was an Innovate UK project where we developed an algorithm to automatically assess the road assets (poles, signs, posts, barriers etc.). On a similar tone I worked a lot with Digital Twins within Bentley Systems and while I was a student in University of Cambridge.

3. Describe a highlight of your career.

The greatest highlight of my career is when I presented our lab projects to the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury in 2018 when I was in the University of Cambridge. I also presented the same projects on a “secret” meeting in Microsoft offices in London. It felt great to present for such big names!

I am also really proud as my educational career came almost at no cost for me as in Greece our studies have no fees and my studies in the University of Cambridge were fully sponsored (fees + stipend) by the Engineering Department there.

Another highlight was that my research on AI in Civil Engineering projects back on my undergraduate studies was published on a journal paper.

4. What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to have more confidence on the early steps of the career. My small experience so far showed me that being a woman in engineering requires huge effort and daily doubt of yourself. Maintaining an attitude and sticking to your opinion is very hard especially in the early stages of my career. The fact that I migrated from Greece to the UK five years ago it was terrifying and exciting at the same time. It gave me lots of knowledge and matured me professionally. I am looking forward to the challenged that will come on the future.

Get a jumpstart on your infrastructure career! Students and educators now have free access to Bentley's software used by companies around the world to create amazing infrastructure projects. Go to Bentley Education for more information.