Uchechi Umunna studied an MSc in Civil Engineering by Independent Distance Learning (IDL), graduating in 2012. He works as a civil engineer in Nigeria.

Can you tell us about where you work, and describe your role briefly?

I work as a civil engineer with a gas processing company in Nigeria called Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company. My main responsibilities include carrying out civil engineering reviews to ensure that designs, construction, modifications and structural repairs are fit-for-purpose to meet technical, regulatory, safety, operating, and maintenance requirements.

Can you tell us a little about what you're working on at the moment?

A project I am currently working on is an upgrade of one of the company's marine offloading facilities. The upgrade is meant to address the degradation of the existing earth retaining sheet pile wall around the berth. The facility was initially design as a temporary facility to be decommissioned five years after its construction. Therefore, no corrosion protection measures were applied to the steel structures. However, the company has now made a decision to extend the service life of the facility, hence the upgrade. 

Why did you choose Heriot-Watt and the programme that you studied?

I chose Heriot-Watt because of its strong reputation and track record in teaching engineering. Making the decision to study an MSc was a fairly easy choice for me having worked as a civil engineer for over five years at the time. I was looking to expand on the knowledge from my bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and gain more in-depth understanding in the areas of foundation and ground engineering.

While I was researching the course contents of the various universities, I was glad to find out that Heriot-Watt offered a very rich mix of optional courses on their MSc in Civil Engineering Programme. I decided on the distance learning route having carefully analysed the loss of potential earnings associated with studying a full time programme.  

How was your experience of studying by Independent Distance Learning?

The thought of combining a full time job with an MSc programme seemed initially daunting. However, with time I was able to learn how to balance the workloads from work and school. I was motivated by the opportunity to add more value to myself and to grow my career. As the programme allowed me to work and study at the same time, I was able to immediately put into practice a large proportion of the learning from the programme. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.

Can you tell us about some of the things you liked best about your Heriot-Watt experience and the programme you studied? 

I was quite impressed by the fact that even though I was thousands of miles away from school, it often felt like I was sitting right there in the classroom. Each time I asked a question, I received a very prompt answer from the lecturer which to me suggested a high level of commitment. I also enjoyed the fact that a large volume of information was very easily accessible via the resources at my fingertips. 

I enjoyed every bit of the courses I undertook while studying the MSc in Civil Engineering, particularly Sustainability in Civil Engineering. This course helped me better appreciate the concept of sustainability in terms of effective protection of the environment, prudent use of natural resources, stable levels of economic growth and employment, a better quality of life and social progress for all. 

Do you have any advice for students interested in working in your field?

Civil engineers have a positive impact on the quality of people's lives. Civil engineering structures ranging from highways, bridges, water treatment plants, buildings, etc. all contribute to improving the overall quality of life. If you are motivated by the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the quality of life in your environment and the society as a whole, then you should look into a career in civil engineering.

As the programme allowed me to work and study at the same time, I was able to immediately put into practice a large proportion of the learning from the programme. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.