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Kayla Browne

Kayla Browne

Site engineer, BAM Nuttall Ltd

Expertise

Construction

Location

United Kingdom
Career highlights

Spoke about the progress of Tideway Tunnel on BBC news

Had a cartoon made about me and what inspired me to join the industry

Awarded the Jean Venables Award 2022 after sitting my EngTech Review

Kayla's career story

After GCSEs, I decided to attend a new engineering college that had just opened. The college also taught core subjects, so it didn’t cut me off other paths, as I was still undecided.

During my time at college, I was given an industry mentor from a civil engineering company. This allowed me to get first-hand insight on the industry and a role within civil engineering.

During my summer holidays between first and second year, I had two weeks’ worth of work experience on two different projects.

This gave me an idea of what a career in civil engineering would be like.

I knew I didn’t want to go to university, as it just never interested me, and multiple members of my family had undertaken apprenticeships before.

So, during my second year I applied to various apprenticeship schemes and chose to go with Bam Nuttall Ltd.

On the programme, I've completed a level 5 higher national diploma (HND) in construction and the built environment in the civil engineering pathway, and a level 5 national vocation qualification (NVQ) in construction management (sustainability).

I am currently enrolled on the level 6 Bachelor of Science (BSc) in civil engineering: site management.

Imagine walking across a bridge, taking a train journey, or driving over something you were a part of constructing.

What inspired you to become a civil engineer?

My dad, who's got an engineering background, inspired me to take the apprenticeship route and become an engineer.

When I was little, I would always follow him around the house and at work, wanting to help with little DIY tasks. For example, wiring and installing lights.

Then, during work experience on the London Bridge Station Redevelopment project, seeing a finished station on one side while the other side was being stripped out to be constructed, I thought ‘this industry is for me’.

Being part of the construction of something old and new is an honour.

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because…

It’s different! Imagine walking across a bridge, taking a train journey, or driving over something you were a part of constructing.

It allows you to see a drawing on paper come to life, from planning and ordering the material to constructing and doing quality checks before handing over.

Civil engineering is broad and full of so many different opportunities and pathways.

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

I made the Gherkin out of Lego.

When I was 15, my dad came home with the limited edition Lego kit. It took me around a week on and off to build. It's still standing in the living room to date.

For International Women in Engineering Day in 2019, Tideway made a cartoon about who inspired me and that is a story I spoke about.

I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also…

A woman in construction.

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

Being onsite and ready for the challenges the day has to offer.

Also, knowing that each day can be very different to the day before is exciting.

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

I love surveying and the feeling I get when I measure a point I'd previously set out and it’s either bang on (accurate - reads 0.000) or it's within 5mm.

I get a sense of accomplishment each time I take record drawings of my work.

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

Projects that I can see on a day-to-day basis and reminisce.

It'd also be amazing to work on bridges and skyscrapers.

For example, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Burj Khalifa or the Marina Bay Sands Tower in Singapore.

My next project will be HS2, a massive project that comes with new engineering skills different to those I currently have. It’s something I’ll be able to look back on with pride many years later.

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

Male dominated industry? Even though there are less women in construction than men, there are still plenty of female role models who I can look up to, and I hope to be one for future generations.

There are various female engineers and site members, in all positions, site-based and/or office-based.

I think civil engineering being a male dominated industry will soon be a thing of the past. And the working environment will be more balanced in terms of diversity.

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

I started as a very shy person.

The industry has tested my limits at times, but I wouldn’t change that.

It’s made me more confident and able to talk to new people of all ages and backgrounds.

The opportunities that I’ve been exposed to over the years have been amazing. I’ve been on BBC news, had a cartoon of me created, and have even been on a joint campaign to raise awareness about the river Thames with a reality TV star!

What are you doing to help fight against climate change?

I am going to invest in an electric car. In the meantime, I use public transport as much as possible.

By working on Thames Tideway, I am improving the water quality in the river Thames, using the river as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions from lorries.

By eventually working on HS2 I will be a part of a scheme that will help people and goods move around the country in a more sustainable way, reducing carbon emissions.

Do you have any hobbies or support any personal causes?

I play netball and enjoy reading, listening to music and binge-watching series.

Furthermore, I raised nearly £1000 for Mind in 2021, running 27 miles in 27 days to raise awareness for student mental health.

Kayla Browne supporting Mind
Kayla supports the charity Mind.

The Burj Khalifa is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A day in my life...

I'm currently working on the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

I wake up at 5:30am to be onsite in time for the daily briefing at 7:50am. Once the briefing is done, I check my emails, catch up with the engineering team, and then with the overall site team to plan for the day and the week ahead.

My days vary from having to go down into the tunnel to review the secondary lining (which provides further resistance to abrasion), checking on the shift team’s progress or carrying out quality assurance from previous concrete pours.

Occasionally, I’ll help other teams with surveying tasks, either setting out the design onto the site itself, levelling the site (determining height points), or taking record drawings that will be fed back to the designer.

By 5:30pm I'm ready to head home. In the evenings, I either relax or work on my university assignments.

Major projects