As part of our ‘Women in the Built Environment’ campaign, we will be showcasing a series of successful women over a variety of posts each Monday. Today, we talked to Helen who is an Infrastructure Engineer for BWB.
Upon completion of my A Levels, I decided to take a year out to do some travelling which included working in an orphanage in the Dominican Republic in 6 weeks, which I found…
When I returned to the UK, I worked in hospitality whilst I looked for a junior role as a Civil Engineering Design Technician. I soon realised that this type of role would enable me to learn on the job and study on day release which is quite common in the industry.
However, a lot of the consultancies weren’t taking on trainees so instead, I decided to apply for a job as a Construction Material Technician at a nearby quarry (Breedon Aggregates) and was successful! This job helped me gain some insight into the construction industry so assisted in my long-term goal of becoming a Civil Engineer.
Whilst working there, I travelled to construction sites and quarries all over England, sampling and testing aggregates, concrete and asphalt. I continued this for 4 years and it was very enjoyable as well as providing me with valuable experience.
Following this I decided I would go to Australia to work in the mines, however, for personal reasons, I travelled for 6 months and came home. Upon my return, I worked at Costa coffee as a Barista which made me realise how much I still wanted to move into the civil engineering profession. I kept looking for the trainee technician roles that I really wanted and came across a role at BWB so I applied.
Initially, I was informed that I hadn’t been successful. To my surprise, a few months later, BWB contacted me to say that they had created a position for me! I was over the moon to say the least!
I told them I would like to do a degree in Civil Engineering and within a year of being at BWB, I started a BEng in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Derby. After 3 years of studying, I was very happy to be awarded a first-class degree.
There were difficult times when studying, especially at Christmas and when work was busy. I had to dig deep and persevere to achieve my dream of becoming a Civil Engineer.
Having an active 11-year-old stepson made it difficult at times. We had limited time with him so I didn’t want to be upstairs studying all weekend! Sometimes the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the working week was go home and study. I tried my best to balance family, friends and study time and, despite it being difficult, it was definitely worth it in the end.
Being female has not held me back and particularly, since coming to BWB, I haven’t had any problems and I am treated as any other person is treated within the team
I am mostly office based, only going out to site once or twice every couple of months. My weeks can vary from working on one project to working on multiple projects. What you set out to do at the beginning of the week can change massively due to deadlines and prioritising work for the overall team. I can spend days on drainage design, researching highway design and using modelling software to design site levels and earthworks. No day is the same and at BWB the variety of work keeps me learning new things every day. I enjoy the project management side of things as well as the technical side.
I think that problem solving and research skills from school help as you can apply them directly to the role. A lot of engineering involves going away and looking at information then interpreting it and justifying why you are doing what you are doing. Additionally, (just like when you are at school) planning your workload and prioritising work is an important skill to have. I had to be good at this as I worked part-time whilst studying for my A-levels and had a busy social and sporting life! ”
If Helen’s story has inspired you, and you are a female Post-16 or college student passionate about a career in property, construction, architecture or civil engineering, please book onto our ‘Women in the Built Environment’ event. This is an incredible opportunity to get a head start and network with industry professionals. You can find more information about this here