- PhD Structural Analysis (Civil Engineering)
- Managing Director, Kaur Value Associates
Duration – 6:31
My name is Arpinder Bansi, I came here to University 83–86 and completed my BSc in Civil Engineering. I stayed on 86-89 and completed my PhD in Structural Analysis. I wasn’t married at that time, so I was here known as Arpinder Samra, and then I got married after I completed my PhD.
Q1 – How did your time at the University shape and influence you?
A1 – From a very early age, I always knew I was going to go on to University, because it was a goal that I had set myself. One of the reasons that I had set this goal for myself was that I had seen my father pursue a part time education all the way up to completing an MSc in Engineering. And I saw University and having a degree as something that would open doors for me. So when I came to University, it was everything that I thought it would be. It rounded me as a person because up until then everything had been in the sort of school classroom environment. You were your own individual, but you still had a goal, which was to get your degree. And at University I also tried new things, I tried new sports, I joined new societies, and I met new friends, and these are friends for life, and a lot of them are now people in the business world, and it’s quite good to network. I’m more comfortable and confident in myself and the reason why I struggled with this question, is because I can’t imagine what it would be like not having been here, so I don’t know what the difference would be.
Q2 – Why do a PhD at Birmingham?
A2 – For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to do a PhD, going back to when I was at primary school. And the reason for that is that because my parent had done an MSc; I’ve got quite a strong competitive streak, and I was told that a PhD was the highest degree that you could get through the education system, anything beyond that you earned through work. So I had set myself this goal to do a PhD, so that’s why I stayed to do a PhD. And I loved every minute of it, because it wasn’t just about gaining a PhD, it was fine tuning the skills which have been very useful later on in my career, such as the leadership skills, such as thing that I took for granted when I then went into industry. Because I started work after my PhD and things like; being able to write something that people could understand, which wasn’t ambiguous. It’s the simplest of things, being able to organize your work, being able to motivate people in the team to deliver, being able to problem solve. And they were things that I just took for granted because they were things that I was doing. Because when you’re doing a PhD you’ve got to set your own goals, you’ve got your own challenges that you’ve got to overcome. Yes, you have support from your supervisor, but it’s you, you’ve got to deliver. I wouldn’t say I felt the pressure at the time because I enjoyed every minute of it, but being able to deliver when things aren’t quite going to plan gives you good grounding that when you are in industry, when you then suddenly get pulled on to a project to rescue it, you can say; well ok let’s sort of go back to basics and review it, and then what do we need to do, and redefine the steps. So, I just took it in my stride, and in all fairness, I think having a PhD did open doors. I found it gave me a bit of clout, because there are still not that many women in engineering. And when I went in to the industry, it was; well, what do you know about engineering? and just being able to say, I’m a Dr. just gave me a bit of clout to make people just sit up and listen, because gradually you do build that relationship, but when you’ve not been introduced to someone, and you’re presenting reports, it’s getting people to have confidence in what it is that you’ve produced. And it gave people that reassurance that yes; this is somebody who knows engineering because she has studied engineering at that next level.
Q3 – How has having a PhD helped your career?
A3 – It helped me fast track my career because when I came in, a lot of the skills that some of the graduates do, as in team building, project management, risk management, I had to do hands on while I was doing my PhD. I had to evaluate a risk matrix on the decisions that I was making every time I turned a new corner, wherever the research was taking me. It helped me, it gave people confidence that because I’ve got that additional experience, I was quickly put in positions of responsibility. So I was able to climb the career ladder just slightly better. But I don’t think that’s the PhD on its own, but it’s more the more rounded skills that you pick up while you’re doing your PhD, it’s being able to interface with different disciplines, and being able to interface with different people, and it was all those sort of things.
Q4 – What would you say to a student who is thinking of doing a PhD?
A4 – Don’t be blinkered, just on the research you are doing, because when you’re doing a PhD you are picking up an awful lot of skills that are transferrable to almost any business environment. I’m not just talking about the soft skills as in the people interfacing, but more sort of the project skills, the risk management skills, the thinking skills. You do it all the time, and you have been doing it throughout your research. And the most important one is your communication skills, because when you are doing something new, and you are going to present it to others, they will want to know; well why is that important, how have we got value for the money that we’ve invested in that. You’ve got to be able to present your ideas, and you take it all in your stride when you’re doing your PhD. But working on those, building on those, as in being aware of all the skills you’ve picked up. Use them in industry, and be aware of the wider things that you are learning as well as just completing your research.