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President’s Future Leaders – where are they now?

11 July 2023

From becoming CEOs to helping design out disaster risk, these engineers show us why this programme is a major success.

President’s Future Leaders – where are they now?
Meet the past President's Future Leaders and find out where their careers have taken them. Image credit: Shutterstock.

The ICE introduced the President's Future Leaders Scheme to foster and develop the skills of talented young professionals. 

Each year, the newly elected ICE president chooses a group of President's Future Leaders to work with.

For this initiative, some of the most innovative and aspirational young people were chosen to assume industry leadership and take on the engineering challenges of the future.

So, let’s explore the fantastic achievements of our past President’s Future Leaders – and ask, ‘where are they now?’

Become an ICE President’s Future Leader

Calling all student members on degree apprenticeships, graduate or technician members - incoming ICE President Professor Jim Hall is looking for his Future Leaders.

The deadline for applications is 12pm (UK time) on Friday 19 July 2024.

Apply today

1. Ayo Sokale

Ayo Sokale
Ayo Sokale. Image credit: Ayo Sokale

Ayo was selected as one of Professor Lord Robert Mair’s President’s Future Leaders in 2018. Since completing the programme, her career has gone from strength to strength.

Managed by Riva Media, Ayo is a keynote speaker and TV presenter who has brought her diverse talents to the small screen. She’s appeared as a presenter on programmes ranging from BBC Bitesize Science to Cbeebies and the Smithsonian Channel.

But Ayo hasn’t stopped there – she’s also turned her hand to politics. She was elected Labour and Cooperative Councillor for Caversham in 2019 and is the Former Deputy Mayor of Reading Borough Council.

During her time as deputy mayor, she campaigned on sustainability issues, co-founding the Plastic Free Caversham Group, which she continues to run to this day. She is also one of ICE’s Water Superheroes, fittingly named ‘Eco Warrior.’

Ayo has repeatedly teamed up with us to help us pursue our long-term goals for the industry.

She’s a supervising civil engineer, and a member of ICE Thames Valley, ICE Policy and External Affairs Committee and ICE’s Communications Committee. Her creativity, enthusiasm and keen eye for detail make her intrinsic to supporting our work.

In her work with us, she’s highlighted inclusivity, particularly the importance of hearing female, Black, and neuro-diverse voices in the industry.

She’s currently a project team manager at the Environment Agency, boasting six years of experience in the industry.

2. Brittany Harris

Brittany Harris
Brittany Harris. Photo credit: Qualis Flow Limited.

Brittany Harris joined the ICE Future Leader scheme in 2016 under the mentorship of Professor Tim Broyd.

In 2017, she initiated the ICE’s involvement in the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals (UNSDGs), which resulted in the UNSDGs being the centrepiece of the ICE 200th anniversary celebrations.

Since completing the Future Leader’s Scheme, Brittany has gone on to become the co-founder and CEO of Qualis Flow.

Qualis Flow has achieved incredible feats in the carbon space, empowering teams to eliminate 100s of hours of work and £100,000s of wasted materials, vastly reducing carbon and waste from the construction process.

Brittainy also volunteers for EcoSwell – a charity that designs and implements sustainability projects that align with the UNSDGs.

As well as being a guest lecturer, she’s also a STEM Ambassador and mentor for organisations, including the ICE and the University of Bristol.

3. Dr Joshua Macabuag

Dr Joshua Macabuag is a disaster-risk engineer who was a President’s Apprentice from 2009-2010.

When a disaster strikes, one of the first engineers you’ll hear about is Doctor Joshua Macabuag.

Josh, a disaster risk engineer, served as Paul Jowitt's President's Apprentice from 2009 to 2010.

Throughout his career, he’s designed and implemented various risk education initiatives to empower vulnerable communities to mitigate the risk of natural disasters.

He worked on Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) deployments and safety assessments, including the Nepal Earthquake in 2005, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the Haiti Earthquake in 2021.

He’s recently been deployed with Search & Rescue Assistance in Disasters (SARAID) to uncover missing people following the tragic Turkey earthquake that resulted in collapsed buildings in Turkey and Syria. that resulted in collapsed buildings in Turkey and Syria.

Last year, Josh participated in the ICE’s 14th Brunel International Lecture Series with a keynote address on responding to climate disasters.

4. Michelle Hicks

Michelle Hicks with ride vehicle
Michelle pictured with a Firefly prototype: a new self-driving system that creates personalised experiences based on guest input. Image credit: Michelle Hicks

When you’re at a theme park, do you ever stop to think about who’s responsible for all those life-like animatronics and amazing sights and sounds?

Michelle Hicks is the co-owner and executive producer of Firefly Creations, a theme park consultancy she founded in 2020.

She’s also a civil engineer and was a President’s Apprentice in 2015-16, mentored by Sir John Armitt.

Michelle’s career has been a thrill ever since. She began her career at Chessington World of Adventure, designing and maintaining rides and amusement park infrastructure.

One of Firefly Creations’ most exciting projects yet is Kraken Cove – an immersive theme park where guests are transported to a pirate village, where they become the master of their own tale.

As Michelle shows, the sky really is the limit when it comes to careers you can do as a civil engineer.

5. Sakthy Selvakumaran

Sakthy Selvakumaran
Image credit: Sakthy Selvakumaran

This year, for World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, we spoke to volunteers at SARAID who witnessed first-hand the urgent need for resilient infrastructure in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Turkey.

One of those volunteers was Sakthy Selvakumaran, founder and CEO of the digital start-up BKwai. Sivasakthy worked with Geoff French as a President’s Apprentice in 2013/14.

Through innovative data analytics and AI, Sakthy has made it her mission to transform how we approach construction projects.

BKwai does this by analysing data sources ranging from satellite radar images to weather sensors to gain insight into the performance of infrastructure assets.

This helps clients understand and predict risks, enabling them to make better decisions around maintenance, upgrades and repair.

Her interest in data analytics was rooted in her academic work.

She completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge on risk and resilience in infrastructure.

She’s also a fellow of the university, and was awarded the inaugural Isaac Newton/Newham College fellowship for outstanding early career researchers.

Sakthy was also featured in Forbes’ ‘Top 30 under 30’ in Europe.

Want to find out more about how satellites could help us prevent disasters? Check out her inspiring TEDx talk below:

Can satellites help us predict infrastructure collapses? | Sakthy Selvakumaran | TEDxNewnham

Feeling inspired by our Past President’s Future Leaders?

Find out more about the President’s Future Leaders programme – it could be the first step towards skyrocketing your civil engineering career.

  • Jessica Beasley, communications executive at ICE