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Spotlight: Alison Moffat, Senior Land Surveyor, WSP

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I volunteer at a dog rescue, so I love heading out there at weekends and doing all the fun and necessary jobs to keep the dogs happy and find them their forever sofa.

Tell us about your career journey so far.

When I was in school I really enjoyed geography and being outdoors, I decided I did not want a desk job. I studied a geography degree before finding out anything about the world of surveying. One summer I did some work experience with a surveying company and decided this was the career for me. I could have gone straight into the job after university but I wanted to become chartered in the future and so I decided to do an accreted masters course at Glasgow University to allow me to accomplish this. After university I worked as a CAD technician in a surveying company and worked my way up to becoming a senior surveyor and expanding my skills, supporting a number of my colleagues in climbing their career ladders too.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

My favourite subjects were art and design technology, a rare opportunity to use my creative side but I also enjoyed the precision of technical drawings and models which is a key skill in a topographical surveyor.

What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?

Maths is very handy! The background to the job is based on trigonometry so a good understanding of this will set you on the right foot and mean you understand the data that you are collecting. An eye for detail in both the data collection and the data presentation is key to delivering a good survey. While formal qualifications are a good steppingstone to building your career, some survey companies allow you to learn on the job and the most important thing to employers is that you are interested and have the drive to learn.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I don’t think I can choose just one! My favourite things about my job are:

· Working outdoors as part of a team, getting hands on with the latest equipment such as drones and learning how to use new techniques and software.

· The different types of jobs and places we work in. One day we could be surveying a river in the highlands, the next an urban brownfield site in Glasgow which keeps it interesting.

· Our data provides the building block for projects. Without this information designs and building projects would be a lot more difficult!

What is a normal day in your role like?

The working day is really diverse, a large part of a surveyor’s day is to be outside using instruments such as total stations, laser scanners and GPS to collect data for a specific project. This could be measurements for a bridge, cross sections of a river, building dimensions, and levels data for 3D maps and plans. Our team will have a briefing before a project and then head out to site. On the office based side we keep the team safe through risk assessment and project management and process the field data to ensure our clients get the survey information they need.

And what does your job title mean?

As a senior land surveyor, I have worked through the ranks from graduate/assistant/surveyor to leading the field team in their day to day works. We collect positional and level information to allow us to create drawings and models of existing features to allow design, engineering or planning teams to do their jobs. Engineering surveyors are also key in building new infrastructure, ensuring it is in the correct place and matches the designers plans through ‘setting out’ coordinates for engineers and on site builders.

Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

1. The room that you are sat in now, estimate by looking around you how big the room is. 3m x 4m? How high is the ceiling, the door, the window sill and write these down.

2. Now use a tape measure to find the measurements of the room. What are the differences between the estimate and the measured results?

3. Land survey equipment can make measurements with sub millimeter accuracy. How do you think the measurements would change if taken with this equipment?

4. Survey equipment measures using angles and distances. If you were stood in the middle of the room what angles and distances would you need from the point at which you are stood to allow you to measure the room’s 4 corners, floor level and ceiling height? Sketch a diagram to show this.

5. Think of the error we encountered in the measurements of this one room. Imagine if you were surveying a road or a full building and how these errors in measurement would affect the design or drawings. The manager wouldn’t be very happy if his windows didn’t fit the frames for example. This is why the surveyor’s role is so important. And the old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’.

Further information can be found at the links below:

The survey association

Royal institution of Chartered Surveyors

Civil Engineering Surveyors


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