Ana Farias: Graduate Civil Engineer at Mott MacDonald

Featured Success Stories

June 10, 2020

Ana, from Brazil

I am originally from Brazil. I studied a Bachelor’s in Brazil and came to the UK for a Masters. Currently, I am a Graduate Civil Engineer for Mott MacDonald acting as a Project Leader. 


The transition from Brazil to the UK

I  first came to the UK in 2014 to do a year abroad during my Bachelors on a scholarship from the Brazilian government. I came back to the UK for Masters because I wanted to come here and work here. I have work experience in both Brazil and the UK so the first difference that stands out is that you get a lot more responsibility here in the UK. 


In Brazil, you only have a graduate scheme for big multinationals and there's a simple assessment centre for most jobs. In sharp contrast, in the UK you have so many tests. I have lost count of how many tests I have given. 


I think it was the most surprising part – that it is such a rigorous & lengthy process & it took about 6 months from the day applied to the day I got the offer. 


I knew about the VISA restriction; I knew it was easier to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 but it was hard, nonetheless. 

“Rejections a part of the application process for international students on grounds of VISA sponsorship”

It is never easy though: I think 3 companies rejected my application on the grounds of VISA issues. One of them stated outright that they couldn’t give Tier 2 although they were very aware that I was a Tier 4 student, they still did not mention it on the application. Going through the entire process and then getting to know you're being rejected after so much effort has gone into it – it is just frustrating. 


In the process, I stumbled upon  Student Circus through a Google search. Honestly, it made my life so much easier. The UK department comes out with a list of companies that can sponsor this VISA. What I learnt was that even if I look up the name of the companies in the list, they might still not sponsor for a particular vacancy. That, again, is frustrating. On Student Circus, I did not have to worry about this. We are also often told to look up accounting firms and the like since they are most likely to sponsor you. 


Application: The process and its quirks

I applied to so many companies all the time. 


In my first successful application, I did a questionnaire, passed that round, went to the interview and assessment centre. In the AC we had a presentation and team activities and an interview based on these. 


Preparing for the tests


I sort of knew what I was getting into. There's a website that Coventry University has a partnership with. It is called Graduates First & it is available to the students of the University. So I prepared myself through them. Some applications also had game-based stages. I have no idea how they take anything from those games, it is very elusive. 

There was an AC which involved a test where had to sit on an excel sheet for an hour and then answer questions off of it. It was a very tough experience too. 

Some of the interviews were more competency-based or strength-based. I prepared for those interviews with help from the Careers Department at my University. They were really helpful - I gave them a mock presentation and went through with them over interviews etc as well. 

Every time I had an interview, I rang them up. They were helpful in the feedback they gave and other hacks about giving a more effective presentation, for instance. 



My VISA expired in May this year. I  applied for the Mott MacDonald one in October and got the offer in March, so there was a short gap between the receipt of the offer and the expiry of my VISA. That was terrifying. After I got the offer, the HR was in touch and directed me to a solicitor who then helped me apply for my Tier 2 Visa in May. It was a very close call – within just a few days remaining for my VISA to expire. The solicitors did everything for me. I just had to pay the NHS fees and that was it. The VISA was accepted really quick. It took 2 weeks, which was much speedier than the usual 6-8 weeks. 

"My advice is to apply early – as soon as you get here, or even before."

A Day In The Life

The job comes with loads of responsibilities. I am responsible for managing all the design bits of the projects. I have two projects at the moment, I am supposed to get all the design information to the team. It is a lot of follow-ups, making sure all documentation is in place, managing sub-contractors, adhering to the budget and dealing with the clients too.

Advice to the incoming cohort of international students:


It would be really helpful now that the 2-year VISA extension is possible. The pressure I was on was insane - such a compressed time period to deal with multiple things. My advice is to apply early – as soon as you get here, or even before. All of my friends who were international students went home, none of them got a Tier 2 VISA 


Students leave it to the last minute and there isn't enough time left. Avoid fundamental mistakes - research the company, go prepared for the interview, be strategic!


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