Emma Watkins

Emma Watkins

Civil engineer at Skanska

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Construction

Career highlights

My working day

A typical site engineering role will have you in work for around 7am to 7.30am, getting yourself settled with a coffee before heading into the daily briefing.

Site engineering teams are the people who bring everything together – we’re out on site making sure things are built to the designs, that health and safety is in order, and that there are no environmental issues.

Then back to the office to make sure all the commercial things are in position and the programme is up-to-date.

At the end of the day, I check out the diaries and that all the paperwork is in order for the next day, before heading off around 5pm to 5.30pm.

Day-to-day work varies significantly, but it’s always a good range of all the different elements that make up a construction project, and is a good balance between physical and mental activities.

My career inspiration

No one! When I was trying to decide what I wanted to do, civil engineering just cropped up as an option that I soon realised would be perfect for me. You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and you think it suits you. It won’t always come as an epiphany, but that’s OK!

Emma on a construction site

Emma on a construction site

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I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also someone with a good, strong home and social life, who’s unafraid to bring out the girly side, even when on site in full high visibility gear.

Emma Watkins

Civil engineer, Skanska

What I love about being a civil engineer (that I didn’t know before I became one)

I didn’t realise the full extent of work and expertise that goes into a single project.

Although I trained and now work as a civil engineer, I’ve worked on environmental problems, commercial ones, I’ve learnt about BIM (Building Information Modelling), about the law, security, management, programming, chemistry ... as someone who does get easily bored, to have a job so varied is absolutely incredible.

The civil engineering myth I’d like to bust

It’s a man’s world.

What a load of rubbish! I’ve had so much support and lots of help ever since I started and have been given nothing but respect for working in the industry.

I’d recommend a career in civil engineering because

There are just so many options! One day you may be building a bridge, the next a sewer, then you might be helping out with the design team, then the next day helping out the commercial team.

You learn about legislation, health and safety, environment, mechanics, chemistry, biodiversity, it doesn’t matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find something in civil engineering that suits you.

You’ll also get to leave something tangible. Most structures today are designed to last more than 100 years. Knowing that I’ve helped build something that my children and grandchildren may use is a real source of pride for me.

The project, past or present, I wish I'd worked on

I’d like to work on a really big dam project sometime, something like the Three Gorges or the Hoover Dam. Dams have so many technical components and they cover so many elements that they must be incredibly interesting to build.

What gets me out of bed every morning?

I like not knowing exactly what each day will hold – what challenges will come up today? How will I solve them? Although there are some jobs that have to be done every day, there’s so much variation it’s always quite exciting.

My major projects

Wessex Capacity Upgrade Programme – I worked on the Waterloo International Terminal upgrade scheme, taking the old Eurostar terminals and bringing them into use for the domestic platforms

Education

I did A levels that were maths/physics-based, then did a Civil Engineering MEng degree at Imperial College London.

I then took a year off to enjoy myself before starting on Skanska’s Graduate Scheme, which I completed recently.

The most complex thing I've made out of Lego

When I was little, I tried to build the tallest tower I possibly could. We had an entire toy chest filled with Lego and I used all of it. It was bigger than me, and I’m proud to say even at that age the limiting factor was the number of bricks, not anything to do with it being unstable.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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