Education and qualifications:
MSc Building Technology and Organisation, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Cracow University of Technology, Poland
Tadeusz Kościuszko Secondary School in Busko-Zdrój, Poland
Associate Project Manager
Norman Rourke Pryme
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
Seeing other women in the field, such as my mum who is a land surveyor, made technical subjects and engineering a natural (not to be confused with the only!) choice, which is why I believe having role models is so important.
I always had quite a technical mind and liked problem solving, and engineers do just that: solve issues, improve the environment around us and provide solutions. So, engineering - and now project management- seemed like something I would enjoy. And I can now say that I certainly do. I now have two daughters and actively encourage discussions that will hopefully make the engineering field one of the career choices available to them, if this is something they wish to pursue.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am an Associate Project Manager with a background in traffic engineering and traffic modelling as well as highways design and transport planning. I liaise directly with clients and stakeholders as well as senior management, and lead multidisciplinary projects.
Currently, I lead two Liveable Neighbourhood projects, which aim to create more attractive spaces for residents and visitors with safer, greener streets. I play a key role in project delivery and have successfully supported clients and design teams in accomplishing project goals. I report to directors and programme managers, and line manage a small team of people, which is also a great part of my job: I enjoy helping others thrive and discovering how to bring out the best in them.
My current role also involves contributing to the strategic direction of the highways team. This enables me to work with and learn from my peers and directors within our department, which offers a great development opportunity and satisfaction from helping to shape the future of the wider team.
Can you describe a typical working day?
I usually start my day by checking the calendar for the day as well as the week and month ahead. I make sure I am prepared for meetings by reading, circulating but also seeking information to ensure it is available in time for the meeting to enable informed decisions and make effective use of everyone’s time. I often produce documents such as board reports, financial reports, notes, engagement, communication content and letters, programmes and presentations for internal or external stakeholders. I draft bids as well as briefs for others to respond to. Procurement of services, arranging and leading meetings, reviewing the work of others and site visits to check progress or discuss issues are also part of my job. As an Associate Project Manager, I also spend time on strategic tasks as well as overseeing and mentoring others. So, no two days are the same.
Despite all the planning, various matters often arise on the day of, meaning that I have to re-prioritise work to accommodate an urgent site visit, attend a meeting, or prepare information and documents at short notice. So, a day filled with meetings, phone calls, responding to emails and drafting and checking documents is probably the best description of my ‘typical day’.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Balancing unplanned ad-hoc tasks within an already busy day is an inevitable part of work for me. What I find challenging during these moments is not the issues on site: it is actually the lack of passion, drive or even simply will that I find most difficult to deal with, and within an already dynamic and challenging environment, such attitude can make the challenges more difficult than they should be. However, developing the ability to adapt language and build relationships with others, as well as maintaining a ‘can-do’ attitude, are key solutions that helps with these specific challenges at the job.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Seeing the tangible difference I can make to people’s lives drives me and motivates me. Along with my engineering background and experience, I am also a Project Manager, which builds onto what I have learnt as an engineer and helps me deliver better outputs for the clients we support.
I love the problem solving challenges that make us better and more experienced, as well as a dynamic environment. I also enjoy working with my colleagues - a team of smart and great minded people to mentor as well as to learn from!
While I was still on my career break to raise my children, I attended an evening talk where I was struck with the impressiveness of the project presented, as well as the engineering team involved that overcame numerous challenges in order to successfully complete the project. At that point, I thought to myself that being an "engineer" means a lot and really is something to be proud of.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Having had quite a substantial career break of over six years, my biggest professional achievement was becoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng) with the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT). When I first decided to go back to work, initially only on a part-time basis, my self-esteem was quite low. And transitioning from arranging playdates and planning dinners to coordinating drainage repair and planning on multimillion-pound projects was an absolutely huge professional achievement for me.
Moreover, working from home through the Covid-19 pandemic with two children at home (who have thankfully been home-schooled mostly by my husband) all the while achieving chartered status and the CIHT Outstanding Performance at Professional Review Award are beyond what I could ever have imagined. It is something that I am very proud of on both personal and professional level.
I am now also a member and recently appointed Chair of the CIHT Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Panel, and I feel humbled and proud to be able to take on this role.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Becoming a CEng has always been my dream and an aspiration. It is personally very rewarding to demonstrate to yourself and others the experience, practical skills and knowledge that you have gained, not to mention the recognition and acknowledgment that follow (I have heard clients expressing respect to those who have the CEng status). I want to continue growing professionally, and being a CEng is certainly an enabling factor in that journey.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
After successfully passing my professional interview with CIHT, I was promoted to the position of Principal Project Manager. I later moved into an Associate role, and I believe having the chartered status played a key role in my career progression.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
Similar to how I gained a certain level of recognition, my employer has gained an employee who has a professional registration which can instantly be recognised on paper. This is particularly beneficial in professional bids, where I am put forward for the work that the company is bidding for.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
For me, becoming chartered has always been an obvious goal. It was never a question of ‘if’, but rather of ‘when’. Professional registration took longer than planned for me due to the career break, but for the same reason, I was even more determined to ensure that the time I spent working and learning - both in terms of my MSc and the CPD throughout my career - is recorded and recognised. Having CEng status adds value to your practical experience in a similar way that an MSc or other formal qualification does. It always increases your profile, provides opportunity for career progression and boosts your own self esteem.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I see myself playing a bigger role in shaping the business and making it a success via building the relationship with clients and helping to source ambitious and creative people that can help maintain and grow the business.
I also hope to be a mentor to others who are planning to become chartered with CIHT. I have recently supported a few applicants wanting to join CIHT, and am now actively supporting a colleague preparing for their Chartership. Being in a position to help others achieve their CEng status is very rewarding and exciting at the same time, and I can’t wait to have helped someone else successfully achieve this milestone.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
Having two young children and a high-responsibility job, it is not as easy to dedicate personal time to external activities. I do however contribute to the engineering sector by offering mentorship to younger colleagues and being a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassador.
I also strive to ensure women’s voices are heard. For several years, I have been part of the Women Committee at Norman Rourke Pryme and actively encourage others to not only contribute to this initiative, but also benefit from it. I actively promote female and male role models, both at work and in my personal life.
Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
Having a Polish background, I have been on the receiving end of nationality-related comments. While these isolated incidents do happen, I mostly meet amazing people who can see past my nationality and accent, and recognise the value I can bring to projects and the industry. People appreciate my strengths of being bold, determined and creative, and I have received many positive comments about the quality of support I offer to the clients. These are the comments that give me strength.