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Kathleen Harrison

Kathleen Harrison

Senior associate director, Jacobs


Project Management, Design


United Kingdom
My highlights

Lead Positive Mental Health Champion in the UK and Ireland from 2018 to 2019

ICE representative on the Building Equality committee in Manchester

Became a fellow of ICE in 2021

A day in my life

No two days are ever the same. From client and team meetings to creating or approving reports and financial forecasts.

I’m often between projects and clients and need to be sure I’m applying the right contract and design requirements to the project!

Communication is key, whether I’m talking to people face to face, on Teams or via email. It’s all about getting my message across to others and understanding what I’m being told.

[Civil engineering] can take you anywhere you want to go … the possibilities are endless.

Who inspired you to become a civil engineer?

My A-level physics teacher, Mr Clift. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and picked my subjects based on what I enjoyed and was good at.

He studied mechanical engineering, and thought I should try it too, as I liked to work things out. Once he told me that, I looked at all of the different types, and civil engineering really appealed to me.

We asked Kathleen…

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

A crane for Salford’s Pink Picnic … there weren’t any instructions except for the picture on the box and some of the pieces were missing. But after about an hour I got it working and played with it a lot!

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

A lover of reading books.

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

There’s always a problem to solve, and that’s what I enjoy.

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

The joy I’d find in watching something be built.

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

The Birkenhead Tunnel, connecting the Wirral and Liverpool.

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

That it’s boring and only for boys.

What are you doing to help fight against climate change?

A lot of my projects involve reducing carbon emissions during construction and use or providing protection against the impacts of climate change.

Personally, I look at my own behaviours. Reducing car use, using public transport, and reducing, reusing, and recycling wherever I can.

Any personal causes or hobbies?

I’m a passionate believer in promoting positive mental health at work.

I'm a Positive Mental Health Champion at Jacobs.

I also champion inclusion and diversity and have been the ICE North West representative on Building Equality’s Greater Manchester committee, promoting an inclusive workplace for LGBTQIA+ employees.

I’ve attended several Pride marches and helped produce free resources for others to use to be effective allies.

Kathleen's career path

After my A-levels, I went to the University of Bradford to study a BEng in Civil and Structural Engineering.

Following graduation, in 2001 I joined Balfour Beatty in the building division. I started working as site engineer, building schools in the north of England.

After five years I became a design manager, working closely with the design team to finalise the design and solve problems from site.

In 2013, I joined Jacobs in the utilities department, focusing on drainage and wastewater treatment works. Then I moved into the water and environment department, leading the river engineering team focusing on flood protection and prevention.

In 2020 I moved teams again, joining the transportation department and taking on the framework manager role on the professional services framework for Lancashire County Council.

I became chartered in 2008, after completing a secondment with Arup to improve my technical skills.

I completed a MSc in construction management in 2013 whilst working at Balfour Beatty and Jacobs, and in 2021, I became a fellow of the ICE.

Major projects

  • Chapel-en-le-Frith High School – as site engineer
  • Old Hall High School - as site engineer
  • Burnage Media Arts College – as design manager
  • North Chadderton High School – as design manager
  • Hinkley Point C – ducting discipline lead
  • Lancashire County Council Professional Services Framework