Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I always knew I didn’t want just an office job, and in school I considered myself a visual learner, in fact I still do. I never knew what I wanted to be when I left school, I’d always help my dad around the house with any wiring of lights or other DIY tasks and with my very bad curiosity trait I took interest in his Engineering background. I made the choice to go to a new engineering college that had just opened; I still didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do so I took a variety of subjects alongside engineering. In my second year I ended up dropping a subject and starting a construction based subject that I really enjoyed. While I was there I secured work experience at a Civil Engineering company. I got to see a before and after on a redevelopment project; so I was able to see a design turn into an actual structural element. That for me was the deciding moment I knew I wanted to go into this field.
I knew I wanted to be able to have that satisfaction passing somewhere and knowing I was a part of making it happen.
What route did you take to get to where you are now?
After completing my GCSEs , I decided to attend a new Engineering College that had just opened. The college also did core subjects, so it didn’t cut off all other paths for me as I was still undecided. I studied maths, engineering and construction and the built environment. During my time at college, I was given an industry mentor from a civil engineering company; this allowed me to get first-hand information on the industry and a role within civil Engineering. During my summer holidays between 1st and 2nd year I had 2 weeks work experience on 2 different projects. This gave me an insight into what a career in civil engineering would be like. I then signed up to various apprenticeships; where I then joined Bam Nuttall, in October 2018. In the apprenticeship program, I completed a level 5 higher national diploma (HND) in Construction and the Built Environment in the Civil Engineering pathway, and a level 5 national vocational qualification (NVQ) in Construction Management (sustainability). I am now in my last year on the Level 6 Degree in Civil Engineering Site Management.
The Reality: what does your role actually involve and how does your work affect our lives/the world around us?
I’ll be honest in most careers you spend more time at work than anywhere else. Most of my friends are doing apprenticeships also so we are able to share stories, problems and solutions and all learn from each other’s experiences.
As a Site Engineer I am essentially the link between the site team and management team; ensuring work activities are properly planned for, coordinating the activity on the day and then following up on the quality after. I know it is a common saying but truly no day is the same; there will always be one problem to solve, something different to be marked out, and another activity to plan for. There is so much involved and always something to learn!
My previous project Thames Tideway is going to be London’s new ‘super Sewer’; it’ll affect London by reducing the amount of sewages flowing in the River Thames as the current sewage system can’t cope with the cities current capacity; the tunnel being built will intercept before the sewage can reach the Thames and in turn clean up the river and improve the ecosystem. At present I am on HS2 which will affect the UK by bringing more areas together and improving the connectivity between them.
What kind of people in other professions do you get to work with within your role?
Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with various different people from different backgrounds within the industry; from supply-chain, client side, human resources, finance and more. Having participated in STEM events and community campaigns I’ve met TV broadcasters and stars; and other inspirational people within the industry.
Depending on which sector you are in can determine what specialists you work with i.e. during my time on Thames tideway I was able to work with Miners, Tunnel boring machine drivers and operatives, secondary lining fitters etc. Whereas at HS2 I have worked with piling sub-contractors, steel fixers and have been more involved with concrete batching plant personnel, designers and the client.
"The best feeling I get is from completing a task and the pride I feel in seeing the final product. Because everything we see In our day to day lives is civil engineering. For every bridge, building, railway and road, an engineer was a part of making that happen."
Imagine walking across a bridge, taking a train journey or driving over something you were a part of constructing; it allows you to see a drawing on paper come to life, from planning and ordering the material to constructing and doing quality checks before handing over. Civil engineering is broad and full of so many different opportunities and pathways I like how versatile and different it is. Being on site everything is changing, I started my first project when there was only a hole in the ground, and were building a conveyor system, 3 years on the tunnelling is complete and there are now 2 tunnels, no conveyor system and shaft works have started. I like how confident I have gotten over the years; being out of my comfort zone has allowed me to take on bigger tasks and have my own mini team.
Imagine walking across a bridge, taking a train journey or driving over something you were a part of constructing.”
Hi, I am Kayla Browne, I’m 22, and a Site Engineer at BAM Nuttall. I have been working in this industry for 4 years now.
Challenges are inevitable. What are some challenges you personally face at work and how do you overcome them each time?
The biggest challenge for me is probably believing in myself. I am a shy person and at times imposter syndrome can make it hard to see that I am doing a good job. The industry has tested me sometimes and put me outside my comfort zone; but I wouldn’t change that as it has made me a much more confident person. I’ve had various opportunities to stand out and have been exposed to so many amazing things from having a cartoon made about me, being on BBC news, being one of the faces for a campaign that was published on multiple newspapers and also being able to talk and work with young people and schools to encourage them into the industry.
What is it like to be a young woman working in your career area & how do people react when you tell them your job role?
At first people are shocked/surprised and then the comment about ‘how do you feel working in a male dominated industry’ is asked. For me there are so many people on a project from various backgrounds; it took me a while but in all honesty no one cares about where you’ve come from or whether you are male or female; we are all here to do a job and to do the best we can and the common aim for us all is to complete the project safely.
I previously wrote a blog on the ICE about this topic and I started it with:
“Male dominated industry? Even though there are less women in construction than men, there are still plenty of female role models who I can look up to and I hope to be one for future generations. There are various female engineers and site members in all positions, site-based and/or office based. I think civil engineering being male dominated will soon be a thing of the past and the working environment will be more balanced in terms of diversity.”
What advice would you give a young woman thinking about a career in your role?
The construction industry gives you incredible job satisfaction; you’ll be a part of something that’ll be around for potentially a lifetime. As I joined the industry via the apprenticeship route I’d say if you are thinking of doing an apprenticeship, I would definitely say follow your gut, if university/ college isn’t for you then an apprenticeship is the perfect route to go down. Not only do you get the experience and knowledge in your chosen field but you can also get qualifications alongside it- it’s the best of both worlds!
As a woman thinking about a career as an Engineer I’d say go for it! Only you know what is best for you and what you want. If this is something you want to do or even want to try; then why not?! Don’t limit yourself, you got this! There are so many pathways and opportunities along the way that no matter the outcome your journey will be original and one that suits you.