I am one of the few qualified environmental lawyers who works within engineering. Having worked as a lawyer at the beginning of my career, I decided to take a career change about 15 years ago and move into environmental management & compliance.
I joined Waterman 10 years ago, joining the then fledgling environmental management & due diligence team, and have never really looked back. I currently head up the national EHSQ service which includes Due Diligence, Responsible Investment, Corporate Sustainability, Management Systems and Health & Safety. The markets I work in are slightly different than the traditional engineering ones in that I work much closer with banks, other financial institutions, lawyers and corporates. In this context, I believe my legal background has come in handy many times, as it has helped me bridge technical and legal aspects so that they can be considered together getting lawyers and engineers talking the same language (a whole achievement in itself!).
When did you decide to go into engineering?
After working a year as a lawyer, I realised my heart was not really in it. I think it is extremely important to be passionate about your job since, apart from sleep, work is the place where you spend most time at.
What made you choose this industry?
To be honest, I came to it slightly blind, not knowing what to expect, but realising I didn’t want to go back to a legal desk. I think the fact I have been in the industry for 15 years says the rest…
Was it what you expected?
It was actually much better! I spent a lot of time at a desk looking at contracts and legal documentation about businesses I knew very little about. When I stepped into the consultancy world, I did a lot of auditing and I loved it. I really enjoy seeing how things are made in factories (and I have seen it all!), it makes things real to see it live, talk to the people in the shop floor and to see how passionate they are about making the tiniest of the widgets. As I have grown in my role, I have moved to see the ins and outs of financial transactions, how people work together to get our economy moving. I have worked in really large and high profile transactions that I then see make headlines in most national press… I find it fascinating and I am proud to have been part of what made that possible!
What are the challenges with working in this industry?
When I started, there weren’t many women in this field and I was frequently the only woman sitting at a round table with a lot of men talking money. You had to be very assertive and confident to gain their full respect. Luckily, this is now very rapidly changing and I am glad to see a lot of young women joining engineering and financial firms. I believe, going forward, the challenge will remain on how to retain women in senior positions as they start having families. Having two children myself, I think Waterman has always encouraged and promoted a good work life balance in their senior management team. However, I don’t see this replicated everywhere and efforts need to be made to ensure equal opportunities.
What has been one of the most interesting achievements?
The first time I was asked to moderate a panel on responsible investment I was introduced as one of the leading advisors in the country and important contributor in the industry. The fact that other people see me as a leading person on what I do made me really proud. I immediately called my mum to tell her!!
What would you say to women who are considering a career in engineering?
It does sound dry and geeky, but it is the total opposite! It is an incredibly interesting, fast moving field and would encourage anyone to consider it.
What projects are you most proud of?
Most of my airport transactions have featured in the press and are very high profile.
Are you involved in any organisations/initiatives that aims to attract women to our industry?
Absolutely, I am keen to be involved in anything that is to do with mentoring women and encouraging them to pursue their dream career in whatever that may be. I am part of Women in Property, Women in Private Equity, the 100% Club, you name it! I am also the longest serving professional at UKELA’s career event, encouraging students to go down the engineering route.
What do you do to balance your work/personal life?
I have two children that keep me on my toes. To me it is really important to make time for everything, I really enjoy a challenging day at work, but nothing beats the reward of coming home to lots of hugs and kisses….