Ummer Daraz (MSc Structural Steel Design and Business Management 2013) attended Imperial as a mature student. Today, he is running his own structural and civil engineering consultancy, Empace.

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?

At Imperial College London you are exposed to exceptionally talented and ambitious students and academics. This naturally rubs off on you and it certainly made a lasting impression on me.

Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?

During my studies I was fortunate enough to come across academic leaders in their fields who were involved in shaping current practices in structural engineering.

It was great to be taught by people with first-hand knowledge of some of the fundamental ideas in our profession. For example, Professor Haig Gulvanessian, who had been pivotal in the development of EN 1990 code of practice and delivered a great lecture series on this in one of my modules. This helped me to get a good grounding in Eurocode practice for my future career.

Did you face any challenges as a result of your background while at university, and how did you overcome them?

I came into studying structural engineering as a mature student with minimal previous formal education at a higher level, which posed some challenges during my studies. This may not be advisable if you are squeamish about maths and physics, but I had a deep-rooted passion in these subjects from a young age that drove me to study hard and get a good grasp of the fundamentals.

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?

Many of the people I came across at Imperial were inspirational in their own right, but I am particularly grateful to people like Professors Leroy Gardner and the late Tom Wyatt, who would patiently explain difficult concepts to me on an intuitive level.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?

My fondest memory must be the graduation ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, which marked the end of an important chapter in my life in an aptly magnificent setting for the occasion.

What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?

My favourite place at Imperial has to be the cafés, where I would relax between lectures over some nice food and a great atmosphere. I still occasionally drop by when I am in London for a bite to eat and reflect on my time there.

Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.  

I am the founder of a small and expanding structural and civil engineering consultancy called Empace, based in Bradford and London. 

Ummer in his office at Empace, he is wearing a brown blazer over a black t shirt looking out towards where the window must be. He is learning on a chair which has a company high vis draped over the back
Ummer pictured at the Empace offices

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

My studies at Imperial positioned me very well to go on and start a successful career in structural engineering. The value of my education at Imperial became quite apparent to me during my professional career and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What have been your career highlights and lowlights?

Some highlights include attaining chartership with the Institution of Structural Engineers in 2018 and then going on to start my own practice.

There have of course been some challenges along the way and our recent macroeconomic shocks probably rank highest up there with the most challenging, but our profession and industry is resilient, and my business has experienced organic growth.

What are your plans for the future?

Going forward I am focused on the growth of my business and looking forward to exciting new projects and opportunities – hopefully the economy will pick up a bit too!

What do you wish you had known when navigating the early stages of your career?

There are aspects of professional practice that I didn’t come across in academia, such as some commercial and business practices in structural engineering, but which turned out to be experience that I would gain during my career. I focused on these areas during my continued professional development (CPD).

What would be your advice for current students?

Put the time and effort in for your studies with an appreciation for the fact that this is a defining chapter in your life, which you will look back to and remember years and decades ahead.

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?

The College consistently ranks high in top lists of universities with a reputation for producing some of the most skilled graduates. I am very proud to call myself an Imperial alumnus.