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A Day in the Life of Will Lavelle, future leader to the President of the ICE

Will Lavelle is a graduate structural engineer and currently based on site at Carnwath Road, where he’s helping to design the Thames Tideway ‘Super Sewer’. Earlier this year, he was also appointed as one of eight Future Leaders to the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Professor Lord Robert Mair. We caught up with Will to learn more about a day in his work life.

My alarm goes off…
At 07:34am. I know it’s specific, but it takes me exactly 26 minutes to get out of the door, so the timing helps me maximise my sleep. It’s purposefully set to the worst radio station I could find to make sure I get moving.

I’m responsible for…
In my day job, I’m a structural engineer on Thames Tideway – London’s solution to cleaning up England’s longest river. I’m leading the structural design at three of the seven Tideway West sites, designing large concrete chambers to intercept the existing sewer where it currently overflows into the river. Admittedly, it’s not the glamorous ‘Shard’ project I always dreamed of, but it’s really interesting and it will change the face of London for the next 120 years which is exciting in a different way.

As a Future Leader to the President of the ICE, I work as part of the ICE’s Policy Team on Project 13 (P13) – one of the Institution’s headline pieces of research aimed at improving the way high-performance infrastructure is delivered. The project is based on five working groups (governance, organisation, integration, capable owner and digital transformation), each of which are led by leaders from industry and have backing from both the Government and big players in infrastructure. There’s more information about P13 on the ICE website.

I’m responsible for the roadmap, or the ‘front-page’ of the report, which illustrates the key steps that need to be taken by companies to move from a transactional model to a high-performing enterprise. The roadmap introduces the project, explains the key stages, and directs readers towards the other P13 materials produced both externally (within government), or internally (produced by the ICE specifically for P13). It was a great part to be involved in, as it quickly got me involved in many different aspects of the project, and straight into the deep end, working to simplify the project into manageable chunks while also integrating information from across industry.

I applied for the job as a Future Leader…
Because I saw it as a great opportunity to get involved with projects I wouldn’t normally be able to, meet interesting and inspiring leaders from across industry, and learn about aspects of infrastructure that I hadn’t been involved in before.

I must admit I wasn’t expecting to get the job, but am very pleased I did!

The project has given me a much greater understanding of large-scale project management, business models, and government policy on infrastructure. Although at my current level I’m not yet directly involved in the kinds of change suggested by P13, having an understanding and appreciation of the problems in the industry is a great start. The Digital Transformation and Organisation working groups are probably the most applicable at my level, and it’s been great to see how improvements in digital capabilities and the building of effective relationships can make a huge difference in the productivity of our industry.

My typical day as a “Future Leader” involves…
An enormous amount of variety. Recently, I’ve attended a number of meetings with the P13 Steering Group and the Executive Committee (a collection of leaders from industry) which is all very interesting. I’m also invited to site visits and given other opportunities to learn from different organisation. For example, I really enjoyed being shown around the @One Alliance at Anglian Water, which is an exemplar of collaborative working and an alliancing framework.

Outside of P13, the other Future Leaders and I meet with the President regularly to discuss industry and policy, and have training sessions on various topics – most recently, we attended a public affairs masterclass.

The best part of the job is…
The level of involvement and responsibility I get on the projects I’m involved in, and within the ICE itself, has surprised me a lot. I’ve been invited to many high-level meetings in the ICE, and been given real responsibility to run sections of workshops – directing CEOs and quizzing Commercial Directors is not something a graduate is usually exposed to!

My most memorable moment so far…
Was probably at the ICE 200 dinner; being sat between the CEO of Engineers Without Borders, Katie Cresswell-Maynard, and the Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), Stephen Tetlow. Engineers Without Borders is a brilliant international charity that I’ve always admired, and it was fascinating speaking to Katie about her role and plans to expand the charity globally.

Stephen was also fascinating, and to hear about the inner-workings of the IMechE was very interesting, but admittedly I was very distracted because I quickly recognised him as building one of my favourite houses on Grand Designs.

Outside of work I…
Run with the London Midnight Runners on Tuesdays, host a show on local radio on Wednesdays (8-9pm), rehearse with the London Contemporary Voices choir on Thursdays, and dabble in stand-up comedy when I’m free on Mondays/Fridays. I also perform as a table magician at weddings and events!

If I wasn’t an engineer…
I would love to host a chat show, or be in a musical in London’s West End. Maybe I could combine all three – Atkins: The Musical, anyone?