Female Engineer of the Month
We caught up with Joanne, a civil engineer at Atkins, to discover what she likes most about being an engineer.
Why did you choose to become an engineer?
I don’t recall when I choose to become an engineer – I think it chose me. I had a talent for maths (the logical calculative part of engineering), a flare for art (the sketching of ideas), a need for visual gratification (bringing ideas to life), and I want to be able to change the world (creating the physical for all to see and use). It was a natural fit and now I am pleased to say I am glad it found me. No matter what role I undertake in Atkins the connection to what I wanted that started this journey is still there, and still evolving into new experiences.
What skills do you have that make you a good engineer?
The ability to visualise what can be and being able to articulate this vision in various forms for various people to understand, with the same passion, at all levels to motivate teams. This is key as most of the projects I work on I come into contact with a mixture of stakeholders, designers, contractors and the public so we must be able to effectively communicate what we do and want to achieve. I love new things, new ideas, new ways, new people and connections as it generates new experiences – a new learning and a chance to be able to share experiences with others, creating the opportunity to grow, is also key to success.
What advantages do you have as a female engineer?
I am a firm believer that being a female has no bearing to being a great engineer. Engineers are professionals and this provides a ticket to the world. There are endless opportunities, roles and projects to work on out there and engineering will lead to other careers as well, including; project management, finance, planning, due diligence, project controls, business development, business management, CEO, in addition to the variety of engineering roles available, including; civil, mechanical, chemical, geotechnical. I work predominantly in rail, which includes; track, signalling, telecommunications, over head lines, electrical, buildings and bridges. I doubt any other profession has this many paths. I have not experienced any barrier as a woman in my journey so far and would be shocked that anyone would consider a female less capable to achieve any of these engineering roles.
What has been the most exciting project that you have worked on?
In my earlier days I would say Newport Station as it was the first time I was exposed to a true multi-disciplinary railway project in terms of not just design but also the stakeholders, the retail, the passengers, the train operations - how one piece of design shapes and integrates with the whole to provide the final solution, and then seeing it in use of course. If you ask me in a year’s time I may say the project that I have just started, which is a railway in Belgrade – the excitement lies with using my built up knowledge outside the UK and being exposed to an alternative culture in hope of seeking best practice and self improvement.
Engineering is still often perceived as a 'male' industry. What advice would you give to young women who are considering a career in engineering?
Perception and reality are not the same. Yes there are more men than women but that is not an excuse to say it’s a man’s profession, it’s about you and want you want to do. If this is the main concern then seek out the facts - contact companies like Atkins, we will be happy show how women work in engineering and share our views. In some areas you do find more men, for example, I work in rail which tends to be in the lower female to male ratio, although I manage a rail engineering team that is about 20% female and my new colleagues in Serbia - well the team is about 50% female. The true test: would I encourage my own two girls to follow me into engineering – absolutely!
What key fact would you share with parents about the opportunities for women in engineering?
If you ever meet my mother the first thing she will proudly say is “my daughter is a civil engineer!” If you want your daughter to embark on a professionally recognised, engaging and variable career then seek out engineering. Take a look a what we do via the ICE website and through our Atkins website as a starting point. There is a lot of information out there exploring what we do. Take myself as an example - yesterday I was looking at a design, today I am looking at a bid and costs, tomorrow I see a client to discuss opportunities and next week I am overseas helping others. Is engineering dull? Never!.