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Claire Pallett

Claire Pallett

Associate technical director, Arcadis

Expertise

Design, Project Management, Water

Location

United Kingdom
Career highlights

Working on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the Great Yarmouth Power Station with Bechtel

Working as an assistant project manager on the Airbus A380 Wing Factory in Wales

Working on the Conwy Flood Alleviation Scheme for the Environment Agency in Wales

A day in my life

At the moment I work from home, but I’m starting to venture into the office(s).

I started with Arcadis during lockdown, so I have worked with my team for over a year and have never met some of them. That will hopefully change soon.

While I’m not commuting, I try to spend the first hour on my personal training, CPD, mentoring and other non-project activities. Then I switch over into HS2 mode.

Every day is different. On any given day I could be:

  • writing processes for the design,
  • reviewing and approving designs and documents,
  • interviewing new recruits,
  • supporting the engineers and design managers with the delivery, and
  • making sure the team are OK.

I also work closely with the project manager to prioritise work and manage inputs and outputs in the multi-disciplinary environment.

The Institution of Civil Engineers is one of the best and you’ll get a lot of support from your colleagues and other engineers. 

What inspired you to become a civil engineer?

It was a personal challenge.

At school I did A Levels that weren’t suitable for engineering, so I completed a year’s diploma at university to give me what I needed in maths and other engineer disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical, process and IT.

To get onto a degree course you had to pass with a 55% pass mark. However, for civil engineering the pass rate was 75%, so I decided to go for it, and here I am.

At Mouchel, I worked as an assistant project manager on the design and site support team for civil infrastructure for the Airbus A380 Wing Factory in Wales. A highlight of this project was taking a tour of the completed facility and watching the first test wings being made.
At Mouchel, I worked as an assistant project manager on the design and site support team for civil infrastructure for the Airbus A380 Wing Factory in Wales. A highlight of this project was taking a tour of the completed facility and watching the first test wings being made.

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

You’ll never be bored, there are a lot of varied opportunities, and it is a great community to be part of.

The Institution of Civil Engineers is one of the best and you’ll get a lot of support from your colleagues and other engineers.

You can also combine it with other skills. Ten years ago, I found a passion for project management, and I use that in parallel with my engineering skills, which has moulded my career.

What’s the most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego?

Probably a square house with a door when I was about four years old.

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

Chair of Salford Choral Society where I sing in the soprano section. I’m also chair of Didsbury Beer Festival, which I also volunteer at during the week of the festival.

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

The knowledge that each day will be different from the one before and I will have new challenges to understand and resolve with the team. I’m never bored.

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

The variety of people on projects.

It’s not just civil engineers. There are environmental, geotechnical & structural engineers, contract and legal specialists, project and programme managers, finance and procurement teams, materials and product specialists, CAD, BIM and digital specialists.

You meet and get to work with a whole range of people and the opportunity to learn is there every day.

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

It’s all about concrete, steel and getting wet and cold on site.

I’m not a site lover, I don’t do the cold, and, in my career, I don’t have to.

Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal or professional challenges/difficulties?

From a girl with little confidence at school to a successful career where I have to be effective and confident in my communication, I admit I found the adjustment challenging to start with.

I even struggled to pick up a phone in my earlier days (emails didn’t exist then). I’ve had to really work to get that confidence and it’s built up over time. It was worth the effort.

What are you doing to help fight against climate change?

As a watercourse design team, we’re continually looking for new methods and products which are more sustainable in terms of their manufacture, construction and performance.

Sustainable products and methods are relatively new compared to the use of traditional ones, such as concrete and hard surfaces.

As civil engineers we need to be aware of the development and improvement of these so that we can be more innovative in our designs to tackle climate change in all that we do.

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

Well, I did start on the Channel Tunnel Rail link, but was moved up to Manchester to work in the water industry after 18 months rather than being made redundant, so I never got to see it through to construction, which would’ve been great.

Saying that, I guess I’ve come full circle. Now I’m moving the rivers to flow under the viaducts for HS2.

Any personal causes or hobbies?

  • I’m a member (and chair) of Salford Choral Society where I sing the top notes in the soprano section. We do five concerts each year, usually at the Royal Northern College of Music or the Stoller Hall (Chetham’s School of Music)
  • I’m also the chair and a director for Didsbury Beer Festival, which is local to where I live. The festival is held for three days each year and all proceeds are donated to local charities. It’s organised and run entirely of volunteers in the local community.
  • I also have a BTEC in silversmithing and love making jewellery – it’s not always successful but I enjoy it.

Major projects

Llanrwst in Conwy, Wales on 18 November 2009.

Conwy Valley before the Conwy Flood Alleviation Scheme

Claire worked for Halcrow as a senior engineer on the design and site supervision of Conwy Flood Alleviation Scheme for the Environment Agency in Wales. This is where she learned the importance of making space for water, which is even more relevant today.

Llanrwst Cafe before the Conwy Flood Alleviation Scheme

Llanrwst Cafe before the Conwy Flood Alleviation Scheme

Claire worked for Halcrow as a senior engineer on the design and site supervision of Conwy Flood Alleviation Scheme for the Environment Agency in Wales. This is where she learned the importance of making space for water, which is even more relevant today.

Claire's career story

I graduated in 1995 and have over 25 years’ experience in civil engineering and project management.

I’m a chartered civil engineer, a fellow of ICE and a member of the Association for Project Management.

My career spans across many disciplines including wastewater, water, flood defences, highways and structures.

I joined Arcadis in February 2021 as an associate technical director and the watercourse diversion lead on HS2 Phase 1, an 80km stretch of the railway between the Chilterns and Warwickshire.

Major projects

  • Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Client: Union Railways – assistant bridge engineer - HS1 Ltd – High Speed 1
  • Great Yarmouth Power Station, Client: GYPL - civils contract co-ordinator- Great Yarmouth CCGT power plant
  • Lytham St Annes Wastewater Pumping Station, Client: United Utilities – assistant site supervisor
  • Airbus A380 Wing Factory, Client: BAe - deputy project manager - UK's biggest new factory opens at Airbus, Broughton
  • Conwy Valley Flood Alleviation Scheme, Client: EA Wales, senior engineer and site support
  • HS2 Phase 1, Client: EKFB/HS2 - technical lead for watercourse diversions - High Speed 2