My best day ever: Four graduates on their most exciting times at work

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The Independent Online

The commissioning engineer

Mark Chalmers, 26, is an assistant commissioning manager with Siemens VAI. He graduated with a degree in metallurgy from Birmingham University in 2002 and carried on to do an MRes in metallurgy. Mark has A-levels in maths, physics and chemistry.

"My best day ever at work was my first day on site... in China! I work for Siemens VAI as a commissioning engineer. We design and install metallurgical equipment around the world and I am part of the rolling mills and process lines department. My job is to go to the newly erected plant, wherever that may be, and help ensure it works to the limits specified in the contract.

"I've been on site in the Chinese city of Nanjing for almost 18 months now and I love it. I didn't want a desk job after university: I wanted to be hands-on and work with real equipment.

"I had four months of office-based training before I left for China. I was starting a new job with new people in a new country which has a very different language. It was very exciting! After a 24-hour journey, I met my new site family and the beast that we would tame: a steel rolling mill that exerts a force of 8,000 tonnes and rolls a slab of steel heated to 1,200C into a plate with an incredible accuracy of 0.1mm.

"I moved from student accommodation to a four-star hotel with expenses. I have learnt an incredible amount since I've been in China and I've also managed to pay off my £13,000 student loan. My level of responsibility has risen sharply to the point where I now run meetings with senior managers of the Chinese plant. Is heavy engineering dull? I think not!"

The forensic psychologist

Lynsey Gozna, 30, is a lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Surrey. She graduated from Sunderland University with a degree in psychology before undertaking first an MSc in criminal justice studies and then a PhD in deception and lying from Portsmouth University. She also has A-levels in English literature and psychology.

"My best day ever at work was when a police station agreed to let me sit in on their suspect interviews. Forensic psychology looks at aspects of the investigative process and how psychology interacts with the law. We consider the best ways in which to interview people, how to garner eyewitness accounts and testimonies, and assess the way in which the police judge a suspect's credibility in an interview. Obviously, part of this is to try to detect when someone is lying about their involvement in a crime.

"Until March last year, my students and I were researching this in the lab only. Although this worked, it wasn't a genuine situation, so we produced questionnaires for the police about how they tried to detect deception in their suspects. The officers whom we sent the questionnaires to were so interested in our work that they offered us the opportunity to sit in on real interviews at their police station: a very rare privilege indeed. Most of the interviews we witness are with suspects of high-volume crime, such as drunken Friday-night brawls, although we're hoping to extend this to more serious crimes.

"Our work in this area is already starting to generate interest among our psychology colleagues, as we're quite unique in the work we're doing. I am thrilled to be doing this as it will genuinely make a difference to everyone: to the police who are trying to ensure their approach is as complete and fair as possible, and to the suspects, so that they are assessed holistically and impartially by the police."

The trainee actuary

Stephen Grant, 24, is a trainee actuary with HBOS. He graduated with a degree in maths from Bristol University in 2002 and has A-levels in maths, further maths, economics and general studies, as well as an AS-level in physics.

"My best day ever was when I first travelled abroad for my company to work on the final stages of a financial product.

"I work on product development in the international division of our company. Our marketing department comes up with ideas for possible products to sell to our clients in Germany, Italy, Austria and Belgium, and it's our job to assess the profitability for us and the client. After all, there's no point designing a product that won't work well for either party involved!

"On this particular occasion, I had been working on a new annuity product, which we were hoping to market in Germany. I designed a specific spreadsheet for this and our programmers in Luxembourg had the job of integrating it into the main IT package. As with anything, there were a few final teething problems that needed sorting out so, rather than spending days sending e-mails back and forth, I flew over to work on the issues in situ and then was given the authority to sign off the product once I was happy that all the glitches had been sorted.

"The sense of responsibility was fantastic and I am now becoming involved in the earlier stages of product development, which carry with them even greater chances for personal input. I am just about to fly off to Milan to discuss a project with the marketing department so I really feel I am gaining valuable experience that will help me after I have qualified as an actuary."

The international lawyer

Cate Taylor, 25, is a trainee lawyer with international law firm Linklaters. She graduated with a degree in law in 2002 from Oxford University and has A-levels in English literature, French, history and general studies.

"My best day at work was when I finally saw the hearings for two cases I'd been working on for the previous three months.

"They were on completely different matters: one, an arbitration between our Japanese client and a UK company, and the other a trial before the High Court at the Palaces of Justice involving a Brazilian client and another Brazilian company.

"For the High Court trial, I'd been working as part of an eight-strong team, pulling together our case from hundreds of documents and liaising heavily with our Sau Paulo office. In a large firm like mine, team-work is essential as our matters are far too large for a single lawyer to undertake. This gives you great experience and good exposure to lawyers from all levels, from partners down to paralegals.

"The arbitration was with a much smaller team: just my principal, a junior lawyer, me and, of course, our counsel, meaning I got a lot more involved in the preparation of the case, researching legal issues, checking witness statements, attending meetings with experts, etc.

"The day the two matters went to hearing was incredibly exciting as I could see the cases and the arguments that we'd all spent months preparing finally being presented. I also saw the witnesses (who had till then existed on paper only) come to court to put their version of events together. We've yet to hear the result of judgements but whatever way it goes, my experiences on the two cases have convinced me that international litigation and arbitration is definitely the area in which I want to qualify in September."

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