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Verena Fernandes

Verena Fernandes

senior civil engineer, Wokingham Borough Council


Project Management, Design, Construction


United Kingdom
My highlights

Chair of the ICE Thames Valley Early Careers Network

Relocating from Brazil to Germany and then the UK

Selected among the WES Top 50 Women in Engineering in 2023

A day in my life

My days at work usually involve reflecting on how I can help improve the infrastructure of the place I work.

This may involve:

  • sketching concept designs
  • producing detailed designs
  • collaborating with other teams in the council or external consultants
  • researching procurement strategies
  • managing contracts

The overall aim is to come up with cost-effective solutions to maintain and build infrastructure.

This requires a holistic view of the project and a great deal of professional commitment.

As an engineer, you will develop your toolbox of skills, and each new project is a chance to get a new tool...

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

The works for the 2014 Football Word Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

We asked Verena…

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because…

It may open so many opportunities to work in places you may never consider going.

Additionally, you’re always learning.

Every project will require you to learn new things, so it’s rarely monotonous.

Also, humanity has big challenges ahead to face, such as climate change.

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

A planner.

I love planning everything from events and trips to my personal and work projects.

I like to exercise my planning skills, look ahead at the bigger picture, assign resources and define timescales.

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

Not Lego, but I had another type of wooden blocks as a kid that I used to build a castle.

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

The chance to impact the environments that people experience, and the opportunities the career opens.

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

How varied it is in terms of the sectors you get to work in.

I used to see civil engineering as only buildings, but it’s much more.

It involves bridges, roads, water, rails, energy… the list is endless.

And you don’t need to be a specialist to start working on something once you’re a qualified engineer.

It’s much more likely that you’ll always have to learn something new for each project that you start.

As an engineer, you will develop your toolbox of skills, and each new project is a chance to get a new tool, which may be useful for something unrelated in the future.

That also means that every person will hold a unique set of tools and experiences. The fact that you get to work with teams allows you to learn a lot from others.

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

The Itaipu Dam - a hydroelectric dam in Brazil.

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

The stereotypical views often associated with engineers.

Contrary to popular belief, engineering isn’t a career only suitable for men, nor does it solely revolve around excelling in math and physics.

Furthermore, the notion that engineers lack social and communication skills is far from the truth. Just to mention a few examples.

Civil engineering encompasses a wide range of abilities and skills, making it a highly diverse field.

Within the industry, numerous roles demand different sets of capabilities and expertise.

These roles require a blend of technical proficiency, problem-solving, creative thinking, project management skills, and effective communication abilities.

Verena's career path

I have a degree in civil engineering from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (2013-2019).

I then studied a master's degree in civil engineering at the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, with a focus on water management and sustainability (2016-2018). This was part of a double degree agreement with the University of Sao Paulo.

Major projects