Did you always know what you wanted to do?
No, I had no civil engineers in my family or community as role models when I was growing up. I think I became interested in becoming an engineer in High School, because of the influence of teachers at the time. When I was about to choose my degree, there was also a lot going on in the construction industry in Brazil, my home Country, because of major events which would happen, such as the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
The Reality: what does your role actually involve and how does your work affect our lives/the world around us?
My role involves design for highways, cycleways, traffic signs, footpaths, and maintenance works. I manage projects from concept design stages until construction, which involves procurement, contract management, stakeholder engagement, etc.
My work affects how peoples move around the borough, I design and deliver infrastructure that allows people to have other options when it comes to going places in their town. By increasing the offer of active travel infrastructure, for instance, I help to create a more sustainable and safer place.
I work with other engineers, landscape architects, planners, asset managers, elected councillors, legal specialists, procurement specialists, ecologists, arboriculturalists, geologists, etc.
Challenges are inevitable. What are some challenges you personally face at work and how do you overcome them each time?
Most of the time, as an engineer, you don’t know the right answer, either because you are not a specialist in the specific topic, or because you are trying to do something out of the box, that has not been done before. Nevertheless, people will expect that you know what you are doing, and most of the time will trust your professional skills and will base their decision on your advice. No one can ever get to a point where they will know everything, so the biggest challenge is to use our professional judgment when doing research, consulting with others, and proposing solutions with a lot of professional responsibility, and that comes with constant second-guessing of things I think I know.
"The best thing i like about my role is the fact that my activities are so varied. Because I take part in all stages of a project, I get to see multiple activities, face different challenges, and learn a lot. At the same time, although I am exposed to a lot, I still have support from my managers to develop and learn."
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?
People usually get surprised by what I do, especially when I review my background, the fact that I am not from the UK, and came here to work in a local authority. My advice to any young woman wanting to pursue my career role is:
Tell yourself you belong, even if you don’t feel it. I spent years questioning if would ever fit in in this environment and if I was really made for this. I don’t think men ever question this at all, so why should we?
Outside of your role, do you have a passion project?
Yes, I am involved with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) as a graduate member. I am currently chair of the ICE Thames Valley Early Career Network (2022/2023). This involves being the connection between the institution and early career members, organizing and promoting informative events, lectures, workshops, etc.
Tell yourself you belong, even if you don’t feel it. I spent years questioning if would ever fit in in this environment and if I was really made for this.”
Hi ladies, my name is Verena Fernandes, I’m 29 years old and I’ve been working within the construction industry for 3 years now.
I’m currently a Senior Civil Engineer at Wokingham Borough Council. I started studying civil engineering in 2013 in Brazil, which is where I am from. In 2016, I moved to Germany, where I did my master’s (M.Sc.) in civil engineering, with a focus on sustainability. After that, I returned to Brazil, where I got my first job in the industry, as a civil engineering intern. In 2020 I received a job offer at Wokingham Borough Council and moved to the UK, I started as a graduate engineer, and I have been progressing there ever since.