• 17 June 2019

Designing for everyday life

I had a wonderful Geography teacher at school who I can still remember standing on a desk to explain the water cycle! That inspired me to study Geography at University. After achieving my degree in Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Derby, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. Having always been interested in how and why people travel and making a difference in the world at a job that meant I wasn’t sat at a desk all day, Transport Planning seemed like a good fit. I got a job at West Sussex County Council in the Transport Section as a technician and over the last 20 years I’ve worked across the private, public and charity sectors getting people to think about the way that they travel.

I think there’s a common misconception that you need to have an engineering degree to get into this industry, but there’s such a mix of people with all sorts of backgrounds working here at Waterman and the beauty is that you need all of those specialisms, skills and qualities. It’s a real team effort and has been more exciting and interesting than anything I could have ever imagined, taking me to places I’ve never been – like the Houses of Parliament for the monthly All Party Parliamentary Cycle Group.

I really like the people side of my job, meeting new people and helping clients find solutions to their transport challenges. There’s always so much to do and I would always tell anyone looking into engineer to go for it – you’ll never have a dull day!

There have been a couple of career highlights for me; the first was working on the Urban Benchmarking Initiative for the European Union working with cities all over Europe on what they could do to encourage more people to travel sustainably to work. That involved some trips to see some very interesting places. Santander, The Hague and Budapest to name just a few. The second was leading a project called Ucycle Nottingham for Sustrans which was a sustainable transport charity. I was working to encourage people to cycle more, which was hard work but also a lot of fun.

As a member of Women in Transport, I have spoken at a number of large national events on the need for more women to be involved in Transport Planning and in governance. It’s clear that the industry is still not equal in terms of the gender split or many other diversity issues and I’ve spoken extensively about the need for more diverse representation. I also work with Newark and Sherwood District Council every year, going into secondary schools in the area with a group of female engineers to talk about and run activities on the theme of ‘Women in Engineering’.

I think it’s really important to keep raising the profile of women in engineering otherwise we are in danger of alienating half the population. We need to refocus on how our surroundings are being planned, built and used by everyone, and that means engaging with a more diverse range of people.

Joanna Ward


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