Kaye Pollard

Kaye Pollard

Civil Engineer

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Design, project management, water

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

I studied an MEng in Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol and was awarded an ICE QUEST Undergraduate Scholarship in 2013 to support my studies.

I undertook civil engineering placements every summer and worked for different companies each time. I worked for Skanska in 2014 undertaking major bridge inspections across Oxfordshire. In 2015 I worked for Black and Veatch helping to design Bristol Water’s Southern Resilience Scheme and in 2016 worked as an Undergraduate Researcher for Happy City Initiative investigating how well-being considerations can be better incorporated into urban infrastructure planning.

Whilst at university I was President of the Bristol Engineers Without Borders Student Society and through the charity spent 2 months in Benin designing and constructing a rainwater harvesting system for a small health clinic.

I started working for Mott MacDonald as a Civil Engineer in the Water Consultancy Division in 2018 and have worked on the design and project management of major water projects within the UK, including the Boston Tidal Barrier and the West Cumbria Water Supplies Project. I was selected as an ICE President’s Future Leader in 2020.

A day in your life

I work as a consultant and every day is always so different and varied. I’ve been lucky to work on so many different projects and each one challenges you in a different way.

I am usually based in the office, so start work around 8.30am and my days can include anything from big team meetings, getting design drawings ready for construction, undertaking design calculations, researching products or answering queries from the site team.

I also go on site visits regularly and it’s always exciting to see construction progress on designs you’ve worked on. I also have client meetings on site to discuss project progress updates.

I finish work at 5pm which leaves plenty of time for unwinding after work, whether that’s by singing with my local choir, half-marathon training or joining a dance class.

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The positive impact of our work can have such a far reaching effect and we're providing essential services that society needs for people to live happy and healthy lives.

Kaye Pollard

Civil Engineer, Mott MacDonald

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

You get to work on scales that are far larger than almost any other industry. You could be designing and building a water supply plant providing clean water to 5 million people, a road bridge used by hundreds of thousands of people each day or protecting thousands of homes from flooding. The positive impact of your work can have such a far reach and you’re proving essential services that society needs for people to live happy and healthy lives.

What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

I must admit, I’ve never been a huge whizz with Lego as a kid (or adult for that matter), but I have made a Lego Harry Potter castle or two in my time.

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

I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also a traveller, runner, dancer, singer and painter. I love getting outdoors and having new adventures and was lucky enough to spend 9 months backpacking around India and Nepal before starting my job at Mott MacDonald.

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

I love knowing that the work we do has real tangible benefits for the communities we are working for. From improved water supply for rural communities to protecting towns from rising sea levels, our work is important and brings huge societal benefits to the people around us.

On top of that, nothing beats the excitement of seeing your designs progress from a theoretical calculation, to a design drawing and then finally coming to life on site and being built in the real world.

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

I have only recently come to appreciate how much of the world’s carbon emissions are associated with infrastructure. As a civil engineer this presents a huge opportunity to help reduce global carbon emissions and prevent climate change.

We have influence over how our roads, railways, electricity supply, buildings and water supplies are built. With that responsibility also comes the opportunity to help do things better and contribute towards lower carbon emissions on a scale far greater than could ever be achieved by your individual actions alone.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

I’m not sure how different the civil engineering profession was back in 1850 when Joseph Bazalgette first envisioned the London sewers but it would have been amazing to have been involved.

At the time it was the largest civil engineering project in the world and such a major sewer system had never been attempted before. Working on such a visionary and innovative project must have been so exciting, and it’s still considered to be one of the greatest contributions to the health of Londoners to this day, helping to eradicate cholera and many other water-bourne diseases.

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

That civil engineering is just maths, maths and more maths. The best civil engineers are those that have people skills and enjoy working as part of a team to create collaborative solutions.

Don’t be put off if you’re not typically “mathsy” as problem solving, the ability to see the bigger picture and attention to detail are far more important than being able to solve complicated equations.

Anything else? i.e. personal causes, hobbies?

I am an Ambassador for FRANK Water Charity and feel passionate about their work providing clean water and sanitation to some of the world’s most vulnerable people in India and Nepal.

Clean water and access to toilets is something many of us take for granted and it still shocks me that even in the 21st Century so many people still don’t have access to these essential things. I ran the Bath Half Marathon to raise funds for FRANK Water in 2019.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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