I’m Jo, graduate tunnel engineer at Atkins in the UK. As a child I was inquisitive, loved problem-solving and being creative, so I was drawn to the sciences, maths, geography and art. My career aspirations went through phases: architect, lawyer, marathon runner.
I wanted a career that would allow me to keep learning and being challenged. I wanted to do something where I could contribute positively to society. I wanted a job that would take me around the world. By sixth form, the decision came down to becoming a doctor or an engineer. After doing work experience in both fields, I decided that civil engineering was my vocation.
My work placement at Atkins made me confident that the company, as a large, international organization, could give me all the opportunities that I’d dreamt of. It was also where I discovered my love for geotechnical and tunnel engineering. So I applied to join the Tunnelling and Underground Space (TUS) team, and here I am.
In my current role I help to develop and optimize tunnelling projects from start to delivery. My project work challenges me to be a practical and creative thinker, taking the whole process into account at every stage. Working at Atkins is giving me everything I wanted out of a career, not to mention a wide variety of big and small opportunities where I can speak up and take the initiative.
Who inspires you at Atkins?
My line manager who is a successful senior tunnel engineer, is a daily inspiration. I admire her for her work ethic, and ability to manage and meaningfully direct project meetings. She’s been so generous with her time, sharing her knowledge and first-hand experiences with me. I also continue to be inspired by my friends in the company’s Graduate and Apprentice community, learning from their project work experiences or secondment opportunities.
What is it like to work at Atkins?
Although it’s a very large company, everyone at Atkins is so approachable and friendly. It’s amazing to see how colleagues at every career stage are given the best opportunities to develop and thrive. There’s a real sense of teamwork across the disciplines, and not just at work – we have a lot of fun playing sport and going out together.
What is it about your job that inspires you?
The opportunity to contribute to some of the largest, most complex and innovative tunneling projects in the UK – if not the world! I’m focused on boosting my capabilities so I love that Atkins is big on skill, expertise and knowledge. It has meant that I’ve been trusted with more responsibility quicker here, and everyone is working with me to help me grow.
Where do you see your career going?
I’m keen to work on even more challenging projects so that I can develop as a specialist in tunnelling and underground engineering. I also want to achieve my chartership. I would really love to work on some overseas projects, so that I can learn about different technical approaches, geological conditions and construction methods.
What’s your proudest career moment to date?
Developing and delivering the detailed design for an under-road crossing as acting project lead. I loved having what I felt was significant responsibility and the feeling of satisfaction of delivering a job well done.
What is the best thing about working at Atkins?
As a large organization, Atkins has allowed me to work on innovative, headline projects. One of these has been working with a major highways’ company to develop a creative new solution to improve safety on the UK’s roads. I’ve also had the chance to get involved in a whole host of other initiatives, like working as a STEM coordinator.
What is the most exciting thing about engineering right now?
Civil engineers are addressing the needs of a growing global population, while trying to tackle the hazards of climate change. So our industry is starting to develop and deliver hugely innovative and future proof projects.
What would you say to someone who is considering a career in engineering?
If you want to improve people’s lives and making our cities sustainable – engineering is for you. As a female graduate tunnel engineer I appreciate diversity – how people from different backgrounds and experiences come together to come up with better solutions. A career in engineering gives girls equal opportunities to our male counterparts – it’s a rewarding career that can take us anywhere!
What has surprised you most about working in engineering?
The opportunities outside of office-based engineering. Working on exciting government initiatives, doing amazing research, taking innovation to other industries… there is so much you can get involved in and it can take you all over the world.
What do you do when you're not at work?
I love running, cycling, rowing, tennis and netball. Work-life balance is important to me and right now, in my career at Atkins, and I’m happy to be achieving it.