Engineering water systems, across the pond

Eric Rawdon’s engineering co-op experience with a water utility in Scotland apparently did little to improve his limited skills in soccer, but it paid off in just about every other way.

“It was the best working experience I ever had,” said the civil engineering major, who will enter his senior year in September. “The work was fantastic and the people were so good-natured and fun to work with.”

The Worcester, Massachusetts, native worked for Scottish Water, in Livingston, Scotland, from June to December 2008. He lived in Edinburgh and tried to immerse himself in the culture, which included a commitment to join the company soccer team. “I was awful, but they welcomed me in,” he said.

Otherwise, the experience was outstanding, Rawdon said. He sharpened his engineering analytical skills, gained hands-on work experience in his field, developed a broader world sense, and increased his network of professional contacts.

Working in program management for the company, Rawdon oversaw the financial data and schedules of more than 120 projects, most involving the repair of water pipes and water storage areas.

He also served as the manager of two small projects to retrofit filters on pipes discharging into the ocean.

Working and living in a new country also forced Rawdon out of his Bay State comfort zone, as much a benefit, he said, as the engineering knowledge he gained. “Just doing everything on my own, instead of having it done for me, made it a more rewarding experience.”

Rawdon also forged a strong relationship with one of his supervisors, an American.

That contact led him to his current co-op position, in the Boston office of Montgomery Watson Harza, a Colorado-based international engineering and consulting firm specializing in sewer and water systems and wastewater treatment.

“My boss was great. And I’ll always remember my Scotland co-op as one of the best things I ever did,” Rawdon said. “I learned so much—about myself and what I’m capable of achieving.”