ICE Invisible Superhero Infrastructo
CEO at Thames Tideway Tunnel and former programme director at Crossrail
Being an ICE Fellow
My career inspiration
It was a civil engineer from over the road who was working on the Devonport Dockyard in the 1970s (I guess I was 16 or so) who was kind enough to show me around.
I was just fascinated by the scale of what was going on and even at that age I could imagine the challenges of designing and building such a facility.
I knew from that point on that I would have fun working on things like that!
I’m a civil engineer but I’m also … a lover of the natural world and all the creatures that live in it (including most of the humans!). I'm also an ICE Invisible Superhero, Infrastructo!
The effect on the public if civil engineers didn’t exist
Since humans started transitioning from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle, we’ve developed infrastructure to make life easier and more viable.
From housing to transportation, water supply and sanitation, we have increasingly depended on infrastructure to enhance the quality of life.
In that regard, very little has changed other than the scale of what’s needed.
Arguably there's never been a greater need for what civil engineers can do for society, and indeed to protect the environment and all species on earth.
Imagine what life would be like now without fresh water, sanitation, housing, energy, transportation – the list goes on.
With an increasing population, a changing climate and diminishing natural resources, the challenges are becoming greater and more pressing.
And of course, sadly, these basic needs aren’t enjoyed by everyone in the world.
There's so much to do, and we need many more civil engineers committed to improving life on this planet!
What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?
I had – and I’m sure a lot of people do - my own ideas about what a career in engineering would entail and where it would lead me, but I could never have imagined the variety in my career.
Every day is different, every project is different and you can go from working on railways and buildings to giant sewers, each one presenting new and exciting challenges.
Which civil engineering myth(s) you would like to bust?
That engineering is only for men.
We’re already doing a lot as an industry to encourage more women into engineering and construction, but the figures speak for themselves, and there’s clearly a lot more that needs to be done.
At Tideway, as a company, 57% of the people we employ are female (and together with our programme manager team the figure is 36% female).
I’m lucky enough to be able to work with a diverse, talented team.
But we must continue to highlight what an exciting, wide-ranging and flexible industry this is to work in and to champion our female engineers to inspire the next generation.
Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?
I might be slightly biased, but I’d probably have to say the Victorian sewerage system.
Everything from the way it was designed to use gravity to transfer sewage eastwards, the pumping stations that raised the sewage to be treated, and the overall legacy for London’s public health were truly remarkable.
London would never have become the global city it is today without the work of Sir Joseph Bazalgette and those who built it.
Tell us a surprising fact about your work?
I’m currently working for Tideway, building what’s commonly known as the “super sewer” to help tackle tens of millions of tonnes of sewage per year polluting the River Thames.
Construction is currently underway across London and is due for completion in 2024.
Once complete, the super sewer will have more than six times the amount of tunnel under the River Thames as the tube network (although I wouldn’t advise using it to get to work).
What about being a civil engineer inspires you?
Knowing that what I’m doing is worthwhile and important, making a tangible difference to the world we live in - and doing it with people that I value, respect and have fun working with!
Would you recommend a career in civil engineering?
If you like the idea of imagining a better future for the world, the environment and society and then doing something about it, then there’s probably a role in civil engineering for you.
You’ll probably be surprised at how keen people in the industry will be to talk to you and show you what they’re doing and help you explore whether civil engineering is for you – so just ask people – anyone!