Jenny Giles

Jenny Giles

Senior Civil Engineer

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Structural, Water, Environmental

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

"I did GCSEs including maths, english and science as well as options in art, drama, French,
German and history. Following that I did A-levels in maths, physics and art, specialising in
pottery. Art is often overlooked for engineering careers, however I’ve found my art training and imagination of incredible use in my career. Creativity is one of an engineer’s primary skills. We have to constantly think of new and creative ways to solve age-old problems."

I went on to study an MEng in Civil Engineering at Surrey University and six years after
graduating I sat my Professional Review with ICE to become a Chartered Engineer. I am very proud to be a member of ICE!
Jenny travels to remote lighthouses by helicopter!

Jenny travels to remote lighthouses by helicopter!

A typical day in your life...

My working day is always very varied, typically first thing I will be on site with the construction team going through the day's task and any design or safety issue that might need resolving.

I will also spend time at a desk working on new designs and planning works around the tide times and weather. Then I’ll be back on site to check how the work is progressing and go through the next day’s tasks.

No two days are the same and working as a coastal engineer means that however much planning I do, I have to be ready to react to anything.  The sea conditions may mean a part of the works needs to be rescheduled and I need to completely change my programme of works, or the sea may have tried to damage the work which needs to be better protected.

In the winter months it is not uncommon for me to get a phone call after heavy winds and high spring tides, to fix a seawall, or slipway or rock revetment that has been compromised and at risk of failure before the next tide. My team and I then have a small window to swoop in and help out. 

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Without civil engineers in my area of work, we would lose our all roads, paths and underlying infrastructure.

Jenny Giles

Deputy Senior Civil Engineer

The highlights of my civil engineering career so far are...

I really enjoy the exciting things I get to do for my job, like travelling to remote lighthouses by helicopter!  But it's great to also have the chance to work outside and enjoy the beauty of the sea, the cliffs the beaches, the boats and harbours and all that comes with our coasts.

It is especially rewarding when the sea has begun to damage a coastal defence and I have to act in an emergency, before the tide returns, to quickly repair that damage to prevent a catastrophic failure.

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because...

You really get to contribute to society and how it performs in every aspect. Civil engineering underpins all of civilisation.  We work in the background and people rarely realise what we have done. It's so satisfying to see how your new seawall is protecting a road or your rock revetment is deflecting and breaking up waves to stop them crashing into public places and watching the sand return to a damaged beach.

You always have something interesting to talk about. I love to share insights into my job and how much it has to do with our everyday life – and people don’t even realise!

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also …

I’m a civil engineer, but I also love the great outdoors, sea swimming, hill walking, rock climbing, growing my own veg and keeping chickens. So it’s great that I get to spend a lot of my time at work outdoors!

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

That without civil engineers in my area of work, we would lose our all roads, paths and underlying infrastructure. We would have more flooding from high tides and less places to enjoy the beach and the sea. We would have problems bringing in boats, for food, trade or to travel.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

I love that my designs become a visual reality right in front of me and that they will become an integral part of society protecting civilisation – so it can continue to function without a care for the onslaught of the daily tide.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust?

That engineers are boring and only work in offices – so not true! I spend over half of my time outdoors getting involved in the construction of a project, making sure the design fits the environment, making sure the environment doesn’t damage the work, and that the team know what is coming and how we can best solve the problems that will crop up.

I think going on a boat or a helicopter to work is very exciting, constantly with one eye over your shoulder watching the tide come in as you rush to finish before your work is underwater for the rest of the day.

Jenny Giles is a civil engineer passionate about protecting our coasts and ensuring that people stay safe from the awesome power of the sea.

Jenny earned her superhero status and nickname Coastal Crusader for her work protecting the coast of Guernsey – an island in the English Channel near the coast of France which is home to around 67,000 people.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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