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Major Rob Ridley

Major Rob Ridley

Civil Engineer in the Royal Engineers, Part of the British Army

Expertise

Design, Project Management

Location

United Kingdom
Career highlights

Joining the British Army

Working in highly diverse teams

Travelling the world with work

My working day

… is never the same. In design offices one day, on remote construction sites the next.

I’ve led teams in over 20 countries, providing engineering in conflict and natural disaster zones, from Northern Europe to the Pilbara in Western Australia.

I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also a soldier, project and programme manager, gay, and I enjoy sailing.

My career inspiration

My grandfather was a mining surveyor who built working model steam locomotives, and I used to enjoy seeing him at work, and driving the engines!

I also had a great metalwork teacher who encouraged my interest, even when my maths teachers weren’t convinced engineering was for me.

Cape Lambert Port, Western Australia
Cape Lambert Port, Western Australia

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 you can work with.

Engineers are surprisingly diverse, from the creative who use their engineering knowledge to drive projects forward to the deeply technical who focus on the detail that makes a complex project really work. There are also the people who enjoy the design office to people who love being outdoors creating new buildings and facilities.

We work with other professions too - architects, surveyors, builders and many others. Our teams need a broad set of talents to deliver the future.

I genuinely believe that diverse teams perform better than teams that aren’t diverse; and that engineering and engineers must be inclusive to build high performing teams that will solve the engineering projects of the future.

If the industry overlooks potentially talent individuals who might not think engineering is for them, then we’ll struggle to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Which civil engineering myth(s) you would like to bust?

That there’s any specific type of person who’ll be a good engineer.

The profession needs people with diverse skills; creative thinkers who can develop concepts to solve problems, highly analytical people who can dig into the detail, people in offices, on site, all over the world.

There’s a space in engineering for most inquisitive people.

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

The Rideau Canal; over 200km long linking Ottawa to Kingston in Canada.

The route was surveyed by Royal Engineers in canoes exploring the wilderness, making their maps as they went,past waterfalls and rapids - quite the adventure!

The construction of its 45 locks was an amazing feat of engineering and is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What about being a civil engineer inspires you?

Solving people’s problems with creative thinking. Engineers blend creative ideas with logical systems to develop solutions to problems, from the basics of life to those things that make life better.

Would you recommend a career in civil engineering?

You’ll make a difference. There are as many different types of engineer as you can imagine, but they’re all solving people’s problems. From ensuring the basics, like plenty of clean water in our taps, to designing and building the places we live, work and play in, all over the world.

Education

After school I studied for a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Plymouth, and qualified as a commercial scuba diver.

After working as an engineer on the railways, I joined the army and trained in leadership at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and passed the Royal Engineers Troop Commanders Course.

The Army also paid for me to study a master’s degree and specialist courses to understand how to design buildings that can survive explosions and other extreme events.

Engineers are always learning, and it gets more interesting at every stage.