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Alexandra Koutsouki

Alexandra Koutsouki

Senior engineer, Arup


Design, Structural


My highlights

Making the WES Top 50 Women in Engineering 2024 list

Highly commended in the 2019 ICE Wales Cymru Ben Barr Award

A day in my life

A couple of days per week I work from home, especially if I have lots of Teams meetings.

But when I work from the office, I particularly enjoy the social aspect of it. During our morning coffees in the kitchen, I feel connected.

When the day starts, I go through my to-do list, then check emails and deal with urgent tasks.

My role involves ensuring that technical and multi-disciplinary designs are delivered to programme and budget.

My main tasks usually include calculations, reports, presentations at meetings, coordination with various disciplines and problem solving.

As a mother of two kids, I always try to balance work and personal life. I try not to stay late at work and be present with my family.

It's essential to recognise and support the talent and expertise of women in civil engineering and encourage their participation and leadership in the industry.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

The ones who inspire us the most! My family.

They gave me a great home life and taught me to believe I could achieve anything.

We asked Alexandra…

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because…

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because it allows you to work on projects that enhance communities and improve quality of life.

This makes it a deeply rewarding profession.

The field provides endless opportunities to solve complex problems, innovate, and collaborate with diverse professionals, ensuring that no two days are ever the same.

As a woman in civil engineering, you can be a role model, inspiring future generations to pursue careers in STEM.

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

A mother, a woman, a baking enthusiast, and a Lord of the Rings fan.

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

I found playing with Lego very frustrating as the model had so many tiny pieces to connect that I preferred to play with wooden blocks or something similar.

As a child I enjoyed playing with dolls and wear princess costumes. I was a Barbie girl, and yet, I've still achieved success in the engineering world.

However, recently I helped my daughter build a small version of Rapunzel and her friend Pascal with Lego!

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

Knowing that the designs I’m working on will make an impact on people’s lives, and I’m part of it.

Also, my colleagues! We share the same interests, concerns, and sense of humour!

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

The wide range of sectors I can work in makes the job incredibly diverse and stimulating.

To name a few: bridges, highways, tunnels, buildings, wind farms, etc. These are all civil engineering.

And the most exciting part of it is that you get transferrable skills.

Every project adds to your knowledge, skills and experience. You can become a generalist or a specialist.

You can even move from one sector to another once you’re qualified.

The options are endless.

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

I wish I'd been involved in the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The complexity of the building, along with the innovative engineering solutions required to overcome various challenges make it an iconic project in the field of civil engineering.

Contributing to such a groundbreaking structure would’ve been incredibly rewarding.

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

The notion that women are less capable or less suited for careers in the field. In reality, women possess the same potential, skills, and aptitude for civil engineering.

Their contributions to the profession are invaluable, and they bring diverse perspectives and innovative ideas that enrich the field.

It's essential to recognise and support the talent and expertise of women in civil engineering and encourage their participation and leadership in the industry.

What are you doing to help address climate change?

As a civil engineer, there are several ways I can contribute to addressing climate change:

  1. Sustainable design: incorporating principles of sustainable design into infrastructure projects to minimise environmental impact, reduce the use of resource, and lower carbon emissions.
  2. Green infrastructure: designing and implementing green infrastructure solutions such as green roofs, permeable pavements, and rain gardens to manage stormwater, reduce urban heat island effects, and enhance biodiversity.
  3. Climate resilience: designing infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and changes in rain patterns, to enhance resilience and adaptability.
  4. Education: educating stakeholders and the public about the importance of addressing climate change in civil engineering projects.

How has your work as an engineer enhanced the lives of people?

Through my career, I’ve worked on many projects that enhance overall quality of life:

  • Railway stations that improve passenger experience through increased visibility and natural wayfinding, making sure that all users enjoy a high-quality, equal, and comfortable experience.
  • Designing barriers that help reduce suicide attempts.
  • Designing bridges that improve access to transportation.

As a mother, a woman, and a non-UK national, working in a male-dominated industry, I’ve defied barriers to success.

I actively engage in internal and external discussions about the profession.

I mentor through the Social Mobility Foundation and participate in STEM outreach.

I host events celebrating women in engineering, looking at how we can attract, retain, and celebrate women engineers in Wales.

What motivated you to become professionally qualified? 

Achieving professional qualifications demonstrates a commitment to excellence and dedication to continuous learning and improvement.

It recognises the responsibilities that come with being an engineer.

Also, obtaining professional qualifications opens up opportunities for career advancement.

What does being professionally qualified with the ICE mean for your career?

It provides formal recognition of my expertise and commitment to the profession, enhancing my credibility among colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

Professional qualification with the ICE can lead to increased opportunities for career advancement, including promotions, higher salaries, and leadership roles within organisations.

The ICE is an internationally recognised institution, opening up opportunities to work and collaborate globally.

Maintaining my professional qualification requires ongoing CPD, which ensures that I stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field, further enhancing my skills and expertise.

What’s the best thing about being professionally qualified with the ICE? 

Being professionally qualified with the ICE is a mark of excellence and professionalism that can significantly enhance my career prospects and contribute to my long-term success as a civil engineer.

How did the ICE and your employer support you to become professionally qualified? 

We have an ICE training scheme that helps:

  • Get engineering knowledge, experience and competence by providing opportunities to find and implement solutions to engineering problems.
  • Achieve the initial professional development (IPD) attributes and complete the IPD stage of professional qualification.
  • Record how you’ve gained relevant knowledge, to support your application for the professional review.
  • Receive structured guidance from a supervising civil engineer and the ICE membership team to make the most of training and, ultimately, achieve professional qualification quicker.

What do you value most about being an ICE member? 

ICE membership offers access to a wide range of resources and tools to support my professional development, including technical journals, publications, and online learning platforms.

These resources help me stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field, enhance my skills and expertise, and contribute to my continued growth as a civil engineer.

How has being a member helped your career? 

I wouldn’t have been able to become a senior engineer without it.

Achieving these qualifications demonstrates my ability and expertise as a civil engineer, leading to increased opportunities for career advancement and higher levels of responsibility.

Alexandra's career path

  • A-levels in maths, physics, biology and chemistry
  • Bachelor's degree in civil engineering at the University of Athens
  • Master's degree in structural steel design and business management at Imperial College London
  • Joined Arup as a graduate engineer in 2013, working on a range of transportation projects
  • Now senior engineer at Arup

Major projects

  • Great Western Route Modernisation (GWRM)
  • A358 Taunton to Southfields Scheme
  • Highways England (now National Highways), A417 Missing Link, Gloucestershire
  • Trans Pennine Route Upgrade (TRU)