Kirstin Johansen: from forensic science to mechanical engineer
After graduating with a degree in Forensic Science, Kirstin Johansen found herself working in an administrative role at Imtech Engineering Services London & South, one of the UK’s largest independently owned and managed technical service providers in the UK. She became increasingly interested in the design aspect of what the company did, and ultimately decided to return to university to study again.
It was a decision welcomed by Imtech, who sponsored her to undertake the BEng (Hons) Building Services Engineering at LSBU, and welcomed her into a role as a mechanical engineer once she had graduated.
“I work in designing heating, ventilation and cooling systems for buildings” says Kirstin. “There are often lots of challenges which makes the job rewarding – the industry is moving at such a fast pace in terms of innovation and design and it’s important to maintain knowledge and confidence to transpire innovation into a real world design application.”
While every job has its own unique aspects, one constant that Kirstin relishes in her role, is managing relationships with a number of different stakeholders. “The beginning of a project will often involve developers, building companies, architects, design consultants as well as many other trades, as the project progresses this will lead onto construction managers and site installers at which point the vision becomes a reality.”
My time at LSBU really helped me develop the communication skills I need to make my job work on a daily basis. It’s also helped me with other crucial parts of my role, such as attention to detail. A small error in the pre-construction stage can be magnified further down the line and cause huge expense and delays, for example.
Kirstin has been fortunate enough to work on some high-profile developments during her time with Imtech, but two projects in particular stick in her mind. “I’m really proud of the work I did during the redevelopment of the BBC Television Centre offices at White City, and the Olympic Stadium at Stratford,” she smiles. “They were very different projects – in White City it was a conversion of offices into apartments whereby I was reviewing an existing design, while the Olympic Stadium was my first solo blank canvas project, and saw me designing the mechanical services for West Ham United’s Director Boardroom.”
Away from her role at Imtech, Kirstin works with the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers in a Resilient Cities Specialist Interest Group, an area where she can express creative ideas with the potential to stretch her even further than her day job. “At the moment, we’re looking at the resilience of cities in the face of climate change, it is a very interesting area for future design and hugely inspirational to work alongside academic professionals working at the forefront of research,” she says.
Kirstin’s advice to anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps is to not be put off by having not already studied a STEM subject. “Learning is a transferable skill, if there is a particular topic you are passionate about your natural drive will be sufficient. Carry out research into the different areas of engineering as there are a huge number of options,” she says. “Decide what it is that will give you the most satisfaction – and once you know, just go for it!”
Read more about studying BEng (Hons) Building Services Engineering.