Education and qualifications:
MEng, Civil and Structural Engineering
Which Institution are you a member of?
Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
Current job title:
Senior Engineer – Civil and Structures
Defence Infrastructure Organisation
Approximately how many staff are employed by your company?
Where are you based?
Please describe your current role:
I am the Senior Civil and Structural Engineer for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, providing advice on the engineering requirements and policy for Structure including masts and towers, WW2 hangars, assault courses and anything in between! We also take the lead on the MOD’s Work at Height Policy providing advice on the implementation, auditing and assurance against the policy and the investigation of incidents.
Please provide a brief outline of your career so far.
I began my career in 2006 while still an engineering student, working on several summer placements as a QUEST scholar for Interserve, until 2010. After graduation I joined Interserve working on the Severn Trent Water Framework as a graduate civil engineer and worked on a number of projects, including those involving concrete structures, roads, mechanical and electrical installations. I managed remedial works at Stoke Bardolph Anaerobic Digestion Plant and worked on several sustainability projects including project development work on three Energy from Waste plants.
I was Senior Engineer and Civil and Structural Design Coordinator on the development of the new Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre, a £146 million project. Before leaving Interserve, I was responsible for leading and managing a team of ten engineers working on the construction of the Mercia EnviRecover Energy from Waste scheme, a £37 million civil works project near Kidderminster.
I moved to Buckingham Group Contracting Limited where I was a Design Coordinator and Senior Engineer leading a team of seven engineers on the fast track programme to build the Jaguar Land Rover National Distribution Centre at Baddesley. Following this I was the site agent managing a large earthworks project for the creation for a new Prologis Industrial Park. On site, I was responsible for site design, procurement, quality, temporary works and planning and managing works.
In 2017 I moved to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to develop my technical knowledge and challenge my skills in engineering design and management of unique structures.
Have you worked on any unusual or high-profile proajects?
The Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre was the first project in the UK to combine all the different process technologies into one centre, but it is the Mercia EnviRecover project that will always be special to me. This is because it was this that I used for my project report in my application to become a Chartered Engineer.
I recently supported the team installing a replacement flag pole at Edinburgh Castle. It’s a unique structure that can retract into the listed tower and has to withstand some extreme weather while not affecting the tower adversely.
What spurred you to work towards becoming registered as a CEng?
Becoming a Chartered Engineer has been a goal since I left university. I see it as a really important continuation of my academic learning, combined with more practical and ‘real life’ development at work to become a fully rounded civil engineer
How did you become registered as a CEng?
I followed a registered training agreement with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), which was run by my company. I was then assigned a supervising civil engineer who monitored my development against ICE’s objectives at quarterly meetings and annual appraisals. He then supported me through the application process by reading my reports and giving me a mock interview as a practice before the big day!
How has professional registration as a CEng benefitted your career?
Being a CEng has really helped me, especially when dealing with designers and clients on site. They respect my suggestions and comments more, which can be useful as a woman engineer. It has also given me more confidence in my ability and decisions, particularly when challenging an aspect of design.
What advice would you give someone considering professional registration as a CEng?
I would definitely recommend that they consider working towards professional registration. For civil engineers I would suggest following ICE’s registered training agreement, as this will keep them focused on completing their development objectives and milestones. In addition, I would recommend getting the support of a mentor who is already a Chartered Engineer and knows what you are going through.
What is your employer’s attitude towards professional registration? Were they supportive while you were working towards professional registration as a CEng?
My employers have all been really supportive of my goal to work towards becoming a Chartered Engineer through a registered training scheme. My current employer is enabling me to support graduate engineers who are aspiring to become members of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
How does your employer benefit from you being professionally registered as a CEng?
It is beneficial when tendering for work to have Chartered Engineers within the company. It also supports the company ethos of training and developing staff.
What are your future goals?
I would like to develop in managing my own projects, while becoming a delegated and ultimately a supervising civil engineer to help others in achieving their goals to become Chartered Engineers.
How do you feel about being the 2015 winner of the Karen Burt Award?
I am thrilled and honoured to have received this prestigious award. I feel extremely fortunate that my love of problem solving has formed the basis of my career. It is so rewarding to have the opportunity to share my experiences with other young women and to know that some have been inspired to join the exciting and ever-changing world of engineering, where we really can make a difference.
Do you participate in any other career-related activities, such as mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am a member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and give talks to other young female engineers to support their development, giving them an insight into my career and challenges I have faced and how I have approached them. I also mentor a few apprentice engineers and they can approach me with any questions and I will provide guidance.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering?
I have a horse that I enjoy competing and recently took to represent the Defence Infrastructure Organisation at the Forces Equine Games. My logical engineering brain and love of a challenge definitely helped me when I took my trailer test!
Helen Randell MEng CEng MICE