Skip to content
ICE Community blog

5 things I’d tell my younger self to prepare her for life as a civil engineer

20 June 2022

As part of our Women Like Us series, ICE Fellow Jennifer Stables provides useful advice for young women considering becoming civil engineers.

5 things I’d tell my younger self to prepare her for life as a civil engineer
Jennifer was recently presented the Science and Sustainability Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards. Pictured above Stephen Meek (left) and Jennifer Stables (right). Image credit: British Council

Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), I thought about my younger self, before I became a chartered civil engineer.

With the hindsight I have, here are five things I’d tell her about women in our industry so that she’d be ready for what’s to come and be able to enjoy her journey to the fullest.

1. Don’t be afraid to step forward for leadership roles

Leaders have vision, take risks, make changes, push things forward and ultimately allow our teams and industry to work with direction.

It’s important that people with leadership qualities don’t limit their vision. If they do our industry loses a leader - a person with a spark who could have made a positive difference.

Women, and all people in our industry, that are passionate leaders with aspiration and drive, lead to progress. As an industry I’m certain we don’t want to supress that.

2. Surround yourself with supportive people

I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with female engineering talent on many of our projects in AECOM – a place where female leadership is actively promoted.

Through our Sustainable Legacies strategy, for example, AECOM is targeting women to comprise at least 20% of senior leadership roles in the near term.

Through my involvement with ICE I’ve met great friends, co-workers and mentors, and I’ve been proud to work with female engineering talent.

For instance, I worked alongside ICE Past President Rachel Skinner, who chaired the London Regional Committee while I was chair of the London Graduate & Students Committee.

3. You’ll work on some amazing projects (and meet amazing women along the way!)

Working on the Qatar Inner Doha Resewerage Implementation Scheme (IDRIS) has been a real standout project for me.

AECOM was the designer for the IDRIS MTS-01 and LIS-01 projects and several key members of the AECOM design team and the client’s team were women.

This included the client’s geotechnical lead, the client’s design & quality lead, the designer’s tunnelling lead, the designer’s quality specialist and me, the designer’s project manager.

This major program, which is key to the Qatari National Vision 2030, is improving the sewerage network in a 680 km2 catchment in the oldest area of Doha. This will enable it to cope with the projected population growth of an additional one million people.

After 5.5 million hours of construction, with the help of 700 people from 22 countries, the project was completed on time and on budget, winning the ENR Global Best Project Award 2019 in the wastewater category.

4. There’s more help available than you realise

There are more opportunities for sponsorship than you might initially think.

Having struggled to make ends meet during my studies makes me certain that knowledge of these resources could have really made a difference.

These are a few to consider:

5. Focus on learning and enjoyment

Enjoy your work and always make an effort to learn more about the industry.

Remember how diverse career paths are in engineering, so seek the tasks that suit and stretch you, and be open to opportunities that come your way.

Also from Jennifer:

How moving abroad got me out of a career rut

The biggest challenge I’ve faced (until COVID work from home) was probably the recession in the UK when I graduated in 2007. It was tough for everyone, as it really stagnated career progression…

Read more
  • Jennifer Stables FICE, Associate Director at AECOM