Rachael Stephens

Rachael Stephens

Local Roads Maintenance Engineer

Country: UK

Specialisms: Project management

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

Winning an ICE Quest Technician Award has been one of my career highlights. It’s something to be proud of, and it gave me a big confidence boost.

It was also a massive financial help as just before I started my course my laptop died and the award meant I could buy a new one without worrying and just concentrate with getting on my course.

I was also extremely proud to be a finalist in the Women In Construction Awards: Best Apprentice 25+

In my spare time I’m an avid aerial dancer (silks, hoop and pole) and scuba diver.

"This year I have 247 sites to complete, and I'll be managing six work gangs"

"This year I have 247 sites to complete, and I'll be managing six work gangs"

My working day

My work is very seasonal and summer is my busiest time. This financial year alone I have 247 sites to complete and both my programmes (footway reconstruction and footway microsurfacing) are on the ground so I’ll spend most of my days chasing six gangs to ensure they’re completing the work correctly, handling complaints, meeting with members of the public and elected members, having progress meetings with the contractors and checking invoices.

I also have to start walking the sites of next year’s projects with the contractor and getting the contract documents ready. Autumn and winter are a bit quieter with not so much work onsite as microsurfacing can only be done during warmer months. I’m normally down to four reconstruction gangs come October.

Rachel visiting a one of her sites

Rachel visiting a one of her sites

However, this is the time where I have to provide the contractor with works information letters for each site, sort out any diversions if we have to close roads, apply for temporary traffic regulation orders and make sure I have pre-construction photos of each site. I try to get the photos while walking with the contractor in my initial visit to save myself some time and energy.

Spring is when any remedial microsurfacing work will take place and the reconstruction teams are completing their last few sites. I then have to do a final walk of each site to check the work and issue the completion certificate. While all this is going on I have to monitor the works from the previous two years as our contractors are under a two year guarantee period, so essentially I have to keep an eye on 4-600 sites a year.

It all takes a lot of organising but I love my job because every day is different. I genuinely wouldn’t change my job for the world.

Civil engineering is a vast and varied field. If you’re more outdoors-y go for a role that will involve you being out onsite or designing. If you don’t like the idea of being caught out in all weathers go for a role in planning, billing or contracts. I’m lucky as I get the best of both worlds.

In civil engineering you have to be driven by the idea of seeing a project from start to finish. You need to have good people skills too in roles like mine, to be able to talk to members of the public who may not understand the work you’re doing. You learn a lot starting out in a civil engineering role and I don’t think you ever stop.

Being someone who likes to help people I enjoying seeing a project from start to finish and knowing that it’s going to benefit the wider community.

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The variety in my job means that no two days are the same. Luckily for me I love problem-solving and that’s what a massive part of this job involves.

Rachel Stephens

Footway surfacing project manager

Education

I started out as an admin/permitting technician and because I was keen to learn and bring value to the company I was given the chance to run the footway microsurfacing programme and study for my BTEC L3 Construction and the Built Environment at the same time.

Through hard work and determination I now run the entire footway surfacing programme. I’m also studying now for my HNC and have just completed my first year and on course for a distinction.

Studying while working is the best option – you’re able to gain a professional qualification while putting the lessons into practice every day.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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