• 21 June 2018

Juliet Harshaw

Senior Engineer, Infrastructure & Environment

“International Women in Engineering Day is so important because it’s a day where we can reach out to young women around the world to show them what engineering is and how you can be involved”

Engineering has been around me for most of my life. My father was a civil engineer and I grew up in Aberdeen where the oil industry is dominant however, I didn’t decide to study engineering until it came to apply for university. I had wanted to be a vet and then a meteorologist, but my father got me thinking about a career in engineering and seeing him work on different projects definitely encouraged me further.

I knew I wanted a career where I would be challenged, could work on lots of different things and have fun, which I’ve been fortunate to have so far. After graduating from university, I got an interview with Waterman for a graduate role in their Edinburgh office and I haven’t looked back.

Believing in myself and having the confidence to express my own ideas and opinions is my biggest challenge at work. I’m not a naturally confident person, so when you’re faced with a situation of having to present your ideas to a client or express your professional opinion in front of a large design team, it’s not the easiest of thing to do. I have been lucky to work in three different offices within Waterman and despite the challenge of starting in a new office, on new projects with new clients, the people have always helped me settle in and come up to speed quickly. I guess that’s why the job is so good, there’s a lot of variety in the work I do and I never quite know what will appear on my desk each day. I have to be prepared for almost anything. In a single day I can go from working on a drainage design to discussions with a local highway authority about permission for a new layby to be installed on a residential street. No two days are the same, every day brings new problems to solve, and I really enjoy the challenge.

Working on the Little Trees Cemetery project for Crawley Borough Council is the best example of a proud moment for me because I was involved over a three-year period from the planning stage all the way through to construction. I worked with some great people, helping to get all the designs through planning and technical sign off. Seeing the scheme built out with my designs included was pretty special and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see a pond in my life!

People assume engineering is a very male dominated environment and that you don’t work with many women. While this is mainly true, I work with many women and the numbers are only increasing. I also get a lot of questions like, “why would you want to design drainage and roads, it sounds boring?” and I always say it’s actually really interesting. No two projects are the same, you’re never quite sure what is going to happen, and you are making a difference to people’s lives. They may not know it at the time but in a few years’ time they will.

I’m a STEM Ambassador, so I’ve been into schools to do some activities to encourage pupils, both boys and girls to come into engineering. This is why International Women in Engineering Day is so important because it’s a day where we can reach out to young women around the world to show them what engineering is and how you can be involved. I like to say it’s as much for them as it is for any man, and if you want to be challenged and work on lots of different projects with lots of different people, helping make a difference, then this is the job for you. I’ve loved it so far and I can’t wait to see what the future has for me.

Juliet Harshaw

You can view Juliet’s video here.


You can also view our International Women in Engineering Day video here.

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