Education and qualifications:
HNC; Civil Engineering
City & Guilds Certificate; AutoCAD 2D & 3D Design
Geophysics & Geological Certificate; Geophysical/Geological Technician
BSc Ecology; Aquatic & Terrestrial Ecology
Lead Assistant Engineer
Waterman Aspen (Secondment to Bracknell Forest Council Transportation Engineering, Highways Adoptions Team)
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
My inspiration to become an engineer was an interesting journey starting with my move to the United Kingdom to be with my husband, straight after getting married. Initially I had been working in the oil and gas sector in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for almost four years before my move to the UK. Unfortunately, the Petroleum Exploration hub was in Scotland and being new to the UK, I decided to stay close to London and found a job with an offshore geotechnical engineering company called Fugro.
While there I gained experience in drafting using AutoCad and began working with both geotechnical and civil engineers. I noted that engineering was technically challenging and exactly what I found highly satisfying.
In the next company I worked for, I gained further exposure to working with civil engineering and with their support I began my formal foray into civil engineering by enrolling in a Civil Engineering HNC programme. I completed this programme with distinction and knew that it was what I was meant to be doing. I find it to be a most rewarding career where I am part of a professional community whose high standards contribute immensely to the public good, which has a great historical reputation and also so much potential for the future.
My current employer is one of the best companies I have worked for and has provided me with the means to progress my engineering career further than I had ever thought I could achieve. Through my employer, I have been able to secure a prominent role in the Highways Adoptions Team in Bracknell Forest Council.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
My role as a Lead Assistant Engineer in the Highways Adoptions Team at Bracknell Forest Council includes the following:
I technically review, inspect and approve civil engineering drawings and ensure that design, construction, quality and safety requirements have been met by design consultants and applicants, in accordance with Bracknell Forest Council Design Guide.
I’m involved in promoting the new Bracknell Forest Council internal electronic database (Uniform) for highway adoption schemes. This includes managing filing systems for records, reports and references, as well as updating ward alerts for councillors with new and ongoing schemes.
My role also involves working on Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs) design schemes and becoming conversant with safety requirements in highway and drainage construction that include permeable paving design.
I do a lot of work around Section 278/Section 38 (S278/S38) agreements. S278 of the Highways Act 1980 allows a developer to carry out works to the public highway, when planning permission has been granted for a development that requires improvements to, or changes to, public highways. S38 of the Highways Act 1980 allows developers to ask the highway authority to ‘adopt’ new roads and associated infrastructure, meaning that the highway authority agrees to undertake maintenance of the road at the public expense.
My role includes accepting and progressing new agreement applications to completion involving highways, drainage, street lighting, services and traffic management. It also covers giving instructions to Legal Services for drafting and completion of S278/S38 agreements, including calculations of advance payment contribution, surety, bond, design and inspection fees, plus I assist in promoting or resolving issues to progress agreements to completion. I respond to queries from developers, consultants, contractors and legal services on S278/S38 agreements, design drawing details and works on site. This covers resolving queries and issues from members of the public or councillors too.
Finally, I am involved with site inspections to confirm safety and good construction practices on site for traffic management, road safety and compliance with design requirements.
Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical day for me starts with catching up with emails, reviewing details for meetings that may be scheduled later on in the day and completion of tasks to progress new applications or ongoing technical reviews.
During the day I attend meetings either in the office or on site, such as site visits with our Clerk of Works Inspector to ensure works are progressing as required. I keep in close contact with our SuDs Engineer, Street Lighting Engineer, Landscaping, Highway Network Team and the Highway Planners to confirm required standards are met.
I also respond to issues on site, correspond with our Legal Services or Finance teams on matters around the wording of agreements or fees etc.
Once I have attended sites or meetings in the office, I follow up with outcomes from these by email, completion of tasks relating to the discussions, or progression to the next stage of the S38/S278 agreement process. Basically, I keep the wheels turning on all of my schemes to the point of completion of the legal agreement, the works on site, and then in all the relevant systems that are in place at Bracknell Forest Council.
As I am on secondment from Waterman Aspen, I may from time to time also respond to emails from my Waterman line manager or human resources as necessary. We keep in touch to ensure my secondment experience is proceeding as smoothly as possible.
Before finishing for the day, I take time to review what tasks were completed, what remain to be completed and update the information systems before the next day.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
At times, working with developers and contractors can become challenging as they may begin works on the highway without a S278 agreement or road licence/permit. This can become a serious situation if not carefully managed.
At times like this I have to be very diplomatic but very firm on my stance in managing such issues. Sometimes I have to be a bit authoritarian to ensure agreements are in place before the highway works commence and compliance with planning conditions are being adhered to.
My experience of how much developers and contractors will try to get away with is growing all the time. It’s good to understand the full situation before reacting, and placing engineering standards (along with health and safety) above all else is the best policy.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Being involved from the start to finish of schemes and to problem-solve highway construction and drainage issues using fundamental engineering principles is enjoyable, as is being able to assist in resolving issues raised by the general public relating to the schemes I have undertaken. I also enjoy assisting my colleagues with any technical issues they may be facing as this provides me with more experience.
I have been involved in streamlining administrative processes in my Adoptions Team and have taken a lot of pride from this as it has helped my colleagues to work in an efficient way. I undertook the task of designing the Highways Adoption Team’s drive folders to house all the filing systems for live schemes, finance, processes, master documents etc, in line with Bracknell Forest Council’s movement to becoming a paperless office.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
A great professional achievement for me was attaining my Engineering Technician (EngTech) registration, a recognition of my career accomplishments so far. I feel that it has provided me with confidence and I have had praise and recognition from my colleagues and my employer. It was something I have wanted to do for a few years and it finally happened in February 2017.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
My employer, Waterman Aspen, has recognised the achievement of my registration and commended my initiative to progress with my career. My efforts in advancing with further professional recognition and attaining career milestones has been enthusiastically encouraged. I was mentioned in the company newsletter when I attained my EngTech qualification and have been approached by the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) to become involved in their Engineering Professional Standards Panel (EPSP).
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
I believe Waterman Aspen has greatly benefitted from my professional registration as it raises their profile by employing professionally recognised engineers and technicians who work within a Code of Conduct, act with integrity, take responsibility and have a high level of professional competence.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
I would advise any colleague or friend to become involved with a professional engineering institution that provides them with a clear route to achieve professional registration. They should become organised in their approach by gaining all the necessary information beforehand and do not stop believing they can achieve registration. They need to surround themselves with people who are good examples of where they want to be and find a good mentor. Also convey their aspirations to their employer, as they can be a great help in achieving goals.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I see myself as a Senior Engineer, and my ambition is to lead a team of my colleagues. I would also like to promote women in engineering and encourage young adults to pursue civil engineering as a career choice.
Do you participate in any other career-related activities, such as mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I have taken part in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador activities at a local school promoting civil engineering a few years ago and highly enjoyed encouraging teenagers to become aware of their potential skills in working with fundamental principles of engineering.
I would like to get further involved in such activities to encourage young girls to become interested in engineering at an early stage to break through the myths of engineering being male orientated.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering?
I very much enjoy travelling locally and abroad, and consciously try to visit locations that feature historical feats of civil and structural engineering. I marvel at how early civilisations mastered engineering without all the advanced means of technology. Being part of the civil engineering fraternity and professional registration connects me with this grand early period of engineering.
I also enjoy seeing how engineering has advanced when visiting newly built structures as well.