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Carol Andrews

Carol Andrews

Associate director, Arup

Expertise

Construction, Design, Project Management

Location

Northern Ireland
My highlights

Working on projects totalling a capital cost of over £250m, including the A2 Buncrana Road Scheme, A26 Dualling and the A8 Dualling

Being NEC supervisor on the £25m Connswater Community Greenway, one of the UK’s most ambitious green infrastructure projects

Sitting on committees and boards including the ICE Northern Ireland Committee and the Queen’s University Belfast Industry Advisory Board

A day in my life

Some examples of what I could be doing on a typical day/week include:

  • Preparing tender responses for opportunities within the transport sector (footbridges, greenways, rail schemes, etc).
  • Attending design meetings to review technical progress on transport schemes and encourage collaboration and innovation to unlock added value for the client and end users.
  • Reviewing and updating project financial records which could include change management or updating a budget for our technical services on a scheme.
  • Liaising with the public or affected landowners on a highways project where the proposed scheme will impact their access or require land to deliver the project.
  • Engaging with the environmental and sustainability teams responsible for understanding and mitigating the impacts of design options.
  • Meeting leaders across the business to discuss growth plans, people issues and client relationship management.

Creativity is crucial for problem solving.

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

I remember watching an episode of Mega Structures on Channel 5 when I was in my early teens.

It was on a huge cable-stayed bridge somewhere on continental Europe (can’t remember the exact structure).

I was just struck at the idea of creating something that looked so complex and challenging from the outset but that a group of determined and ambitious engineers took on and delivered.

We asked Carol…

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because…

The variety and diversity of what you can do throughout your career.

I’ve been a designer, a site supervisor, a landowner liaison officer and a project manager.

I love a mixture of being in the office and out onsite, and there aren’t many careers which offer the mix of role, location and satisfaction of shaping the world around us out there!

It’s also a great career if you want to travel and work, as our degree and accreditation is globally recognised.

It’s secondary, but I feel we are a well-paid profession with good opportunities to progress up the ladder and build a valuable skills base.

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

...a mum of four boys under the age of eight!

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

When I was a kid, my sister and I made a city out of Lego up in our attic that seemed like it took months to create and refine!

We loved it and it was never quite finished.

We continued to chop and change the layout for many years, and I guess that isn’t unlike what being an engineer is.

Try lots of different solutions and keep striving to innovate and improve your design!

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

I relish the challenge each day presents!

I’m all about working through issues that come up on projects and finding solutions with my fellow engineers.

The team-working aspect of what I do is central to why I love the job.

Being part of something that has a positive impact on society is also a key motivator.

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

How central engineers are to addressing the climate emergency.

The choices we make during design and construction can have a significant positive or negative impact on climate change.

For example, reallocating road space to buses, cyclists and pedestrians to promote active travel can cut emissions significantly.

Another example is selecting sustainable materials for construction.

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

I would’ve loved to work on the Statue of Liberty.

I remember finding out that Gustave Eiffel was involved in the structural design and being so impressed at the engineering that is tucked away under the skin of such an iconic statue.

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

That engineering doesn’t require creativity!

Creativity is crucial for problem solving.

Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal hurdles/difficulties?

I feel like each milestone met on a project and the lessons you learn when overcoming challenges presented on schemes teaches you to be patient and be creative.

I need both skills to keep up with my four boys!

My ethos in project delivery is ‘no problems without solutions’ and this is the approach I ask my teams to follow.

When they come to me with an issue they also have to come with solutions however weird and wonderful!

This approach is a positive way to empower teams, proactively deal with issues in design and construction, and build a culture of innovation and problem solving.

What are you doing to help address climate change?

Climate change is at the forefront of all our design decision making.

Gone are the days where you can make decisions and the environment/carbon impacts are secondary – they are front and centre now.

Some examples of where I’ve addressed climate change on projects include:

  • Avoiding disturbance of peatlands that act as carbon sinks.
  • Reprioritising cycling and walking in transport schemes to promote a change in the way we travel into a more sustainable one (modal shift).
  • Introducing features onto transport projects that enhance and support biodiversity.
  • Sustainable urban drainage and rain garden features installed where possible.

How has your work enhanced the lives of people?

My work on Connswater Community Greenway has been truly inspirational.

The project demonstrates how solutions to engineering issues like flooding can open up wide reaching benefits ranging from health and wellbeing to economic regeneration.

By focusing on outcome-led design we can broaden the traditional business case civil engineering projects use to measure value and introduce a variety of societal benefits that can be challenging to measure but hold immense value.

What motivated you, or is motivating you, to become professionally qualified? 

I was always keen to obtain my chartership with the ICE.

I signed a training agreement when I joined Arup and used the attributes to steer my career to obtain technical, managerial and financial skills to be successful at my review.

I wanted to become chartered to demonstrate my competence as a civil engineer and enable me to progress my career to new heights.

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

It unlocked a number of doors within the construction industry and within Arup.

I had the qualification to demonstrate I’m a safe pair of hands, and someone who will prioritise client needs, technical excellence, health and safety and end users in their projects.

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

I’m now part of a like-minded group of people who has completed the review process and who share my passion for engineering.

My network has grown and I’ve been invited to speak at several conferences including the Women in Construction Summit and the ‘New Normal’ Climate Change event at Queen’s University Belfast.

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

I was on an accredited training programme when I joined as a graduate and was given a delegated engineer and a nominated supervising civil engineer to support me.

I spent time on the ICE Graduates and Students Committee for the ICE which was great at offering courses and technical talks to help developing engineering awareness and skills.

What do you value most about being an ICE member? 

The network I’m connected to.

I’m a people person and value the diverse viewpoints and options everyone can bring to our industry.

We need to connect and share best practice and lessons learnt to continue to solve engineering problems in our society.

Anything else?

I sit on a number of committees and boards including the ICE Northern Ireland Committee and the Queen’s University Belfast Industry Advisory Board.

I’m a sports enthusiast and have played for Rainey Hockey Club for many years.

I’ve recently taken up cricket and I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a new sport.

I play the trombone and I’m enjoying teaching my eldest son the trumpet.

Image credit: Carol Andrews

Team player

"The team working aspect of what I do is central to why I love the job.

"Being part of something that has a positive impact on society is also a key motivator."

Carol's career path

I studied A-levels in maths, further maths, geography, physics and art.

I studied an master’s in civil engineering at Queen’s University Belfast and graduated with first-class honours as the top performing student in my graduation year.

Also, I was sponsored through ICE QUEST and spent my placement year Farrans Construction.

I joined Arup as a graduate and worked as a geotechnical engineer doing ground investigations and also in the highways team working on A8 Dualling in areas including land and project management.

I had the role of project manager for the A26 Enabling Works contract in which advanced site clearance, archaeology and fencing works took place to de-risk the main works.

I moved onto Connswater Community Greenway where I was nominated as the NEC Supervisor who was responsible to ensuring the quality of the works conformed with the contract.

Following maternity leave in 2016/2017, I returned to a project management role on A2 Buncrana Road Scheme in Derry.

I introduced enhanced design features, including segregated cycleways, urban design opportunities and sustainable urban drainage.

I’ve had another three maternity leaves since 2020 and am now an associate director in the transport portfolio focused on work winning and business development across Northern Ireland, Scotland and North England.

Major projects