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My job explained: Engineering illustrator

engineering illustratorIllustrator Yanchee Lau provides a crucial link between engineers and their clients. He is responsible for drawing designs so that everyone can have a clear idea of what structures will look like when built.

What stage are you at in career?

I used to be an engineer (for two years) and have been an illustrator for a year and a half. I realised I was more interested in the concepts and geometry of the work rather than actually designing the building itself. It helps having the engineering background as I have an appreciation of what the engineer wants to say in an image.

When did you decide to study engineering?

Probably when I was 16 or 17. I wasn’t specifically inspired by a person, it was more because I wanted to do something with a creatively designed physical output that would make a difference to the world. Engineering is an honest profession which offers this.

Can you describe a typical working day?

The hours are fairly flexible with what I do, because I work mainly with people within the office. I spend most of my time creating images and discussing with the engineers to make sure I am representing their ideas properly. As long as I meet all my deadlines, I’m allowed to organise my own time so I have to be disciplined.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the challenge of how best to communicate an idea, and then showing people what I’ve come up with. It’s satisfying when you produce something that people are excited about – these drawings give the first real feeling of what the structure is going to look like, so it can be a good buzz.

Any downsides to your work?

Well, it can get a bit stressful when you have a number of projects on the go and quite a few deadlines to meet, but I guess that’s the same with lots of jobs.

Have there been any challenges in getting to this stage in your career?

Yeah. My family aren’t well off so I had to think about that when applying for uni. I had to get out student loans and worked during the holidays. I would say to people who are hesitating because they’re worried about getting into debt, that they should still go for it though. The advantages of earning power, job prospects and experience definitely outweigh all the money worries.

What personal qualities are important for your role?

You need to be quite good at organising your time and you should be proactive to keep on top of the work that you may get in the near future. I deal with a variety of people and I find it’s not only a case of offering them what they want but going the extra yard to show them something different which they may prefer. This is where I can demonstrate value.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of following in your footsteps?

With the job market at the moment, actually choosing to do a degree and completing it is almost more important than picking which subject to study. I would suggest that when making the decisions which affect your career, you should follow your heart rather than your head. You’ll probably be happier in the long term,

What’s your favourite engineering feat?

The pencil – it allows us to articulate and communicate what we want to say at times when words just aren’t enough.

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