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Francesco Presta, Technical director, major bridges, Atkins

Francesco

Technical director, major bridges

My Bio

When did you join Atkins?

March 2005.

Why did you join Atkins?

I was looking for a job in a major engineering consultancy in the UK with a strong track record in bridge engineering. Atkins was the first to offer me a job amongst the big players.

What did you do before you joined Atkins?

I worked for few years for a contractor in Italy, about one year with Gifford (now Ramboll) in the UK, and for about one and half years I was a full-time PhD student.

How would you describe your role and responsibilities?

I lead teams to deliver the design of bridge projects to the highest quality, on time and trying to exceed the target margin. I also do a lot of other things including bidding, business development and people management.

How do you describe what you do to friends and family?

I just keep it simple; everybody understands what a bridge is and its function, however most of them obviously do not understand what it takes to design and build a bridge.

Do you have any professional accreditations?

I have a PhD in Computational Mechanics and a degree in Civil Engineering. I am a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) and a member of the Institution of Engineers in Italy (Ordine degli Ingegneri).

What key projects have you worked on?

I have been lucky enough to be involved in many challenging projects. Some key ones include the assessment of Penang Bridge in Malaysia, the design of the Dubai Metro Red Line, the design of the structures for the N6 Galway to Ballinasloe in Ireland, the independent review of a cable-stayed bridge at Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, and the design of the Riyadh Metro.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working as project manager for the design of Prince Turki Al-Awwal Road Bridge in Riyadh, KSA. This is an iconic bridge crossing one of the busiest junctions in Riyadh.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I am quite proud of all my academic achievements so far, and of my commitment to pursuing additional studies in management. Professionally, I was involved in some of Atkins’ most challenging bridge projects, and it is quite rewarding to feel that I have made a good contribution to the business.

What’s the most technically challenging project you’ve worked on at Atkins?

I was involved in many technically challenging projects. To mention the latest one, the design of Prince Turki Al-Awwal Road Bridge in Riyadh is proving to be very challenging in many ways. The iconic nature of the project means the structural design is very complex, and the location of the bridge means that there are a lot of interactions with existing traffic, utilities and landscape. In addition the design programme is incredibly tight.

How has your career developed at Atkins?

I joined Atkins as an assistant engineer and since then my career has steadily progressed. I was given the opportunity to work on some incredibly challenging projects and with time I was given more responsibilities. I have a development plan in place and I know where I am going.

How have you been supported during your career development?

I have always obtained great support from my line managers over the years. They exposed me to the type of opportunities I was looking for, and they left me the freedom to work and learn with the right amount of supervision and support when necessary.

How do bridge engineers and Atkins make a difference?

‘Tierra sobre el agua’ is the Spanish title of a famous bridge book, which gives a very poetic interpretation of the power of bridges. Bridges connect people and places, allowing us to cross obstacles like valleys and rivers and to access remote places like islands. They play a key role in the development of transportation infrastructure and, in some cases, they are real pieces of art - engineering marvels capable of marking a place.

How would you describe the culture at Atkins?

Atkins treats staff safety and wellbeing as a top priority, which is obviously very important. The company also provides a professional, multicultural and supporting working environment.

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