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Elena Martin Fernandez

Elena Martin Fernandez

principal highways engineer, Warwickshire County Council


Design, Digital


United Kingdom
My highlights

Selected among the WES Top 50 Women in Engineering in 2023

Working in Spain and in the UK

Working on the Queensferry Bridge Crossing

A day in my life

I work from home, so the commute is lovely: grab a coffee and turn on the laptop.

Usually I check my emails to see if anything is urgent.

If something came up (problem on site, urgent check, etc.) I’ll do that first.

If not, I’ll turn on Autodesk Civil 3D and design and draw the plans for whichever project is the priority of the week.

I usually work on several at the same time, so it will depend on delivery dates or meetings.

Occasionally, I’ll prepare reports or undertake drainage design for highways.

Normally I will have a couple of technical meetings a day with other designers on the projects.

My hours may vary a bit depending on projects but usually it’s a 9 to 5 configuration.

Turn off the computer at the end of the day.

[I like] solving the puzzle, the 'high stakes Lego', designing something that will be there for people to use.

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

There wasn’t anything specific. I always liked roads and how, in a few hours of smooth driving, you could be somewhere new.

When I discovered at 16 that someone actually had to design those, I chose my A-level equivalents for a civil engineering degree.

We asked Elena…

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

Everything that needs a construction site will have civil engineers involved.

There are many different steps in a project, from planning to construction, and further intervention during its life cycle.

In one area or another you'll always find something to like.

For me it’s solving the puzzle, the 'high stakes Lego', designing something that will be there for people to use.

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

I actually used K'Nex as a child, and it was a motorised rollercoaster.

With Lego I used to build mazes to test the skills of my cousin’s pet rat.

The rollercoaster took me about a day because I couldn’t get the car to lock into the raising system, while the maze was a long-term thing, over many a school holiday with changes and improvements.

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

a fantasy and sci-fi geek, a cyclist, a reader, a woman.

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

The 3D puzzle, designing something that doesn’t exist yet, finding the best solution that can be realistically delivered to improve or provide something that's needed.

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

How many little things I never thought about or was taught about that need to be done.

There's still designing onsite, you even design how to build and how to get the machines there.

How nothing is finished until it’s finished, and even then there will be maintenance.

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

That 'there will be no women on site'.

Although you may not see as many female builders, there are plenty of surveyors, site supervisors or onsite office designers that are women.

It’s more balanced in the office environment, but even if you are the only woman on site, I've never felt unsafe.

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

Sometimes when driving A roads in England I wish I'd been part of the design team so I could understand what's going on.

Anything else?

I hold a violin degree, I read a lot, and I'm a STEM ambassador. I'm fluent in English, a native Spanish speaker, and can hold a conversation in French and Japanese.

Elena's career path

I did a technical baccalaureate, the Spanish equivalent to A-levels, and then a BEng and MEng combination, specialising in transportation (road, rail, ports and transportation systems).