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Lucy Willis, Senior engineer, Atkins


Senior engineer

Can a company as big as Atkins still have the feel of a close-knit community? We don’t just believe that it can, but that it must if our people are to enjoy working here and thrive in their careers.

Having spent the past 14 years building her career at Atkins, Lucy confesses that people find it strange to meet a woman with a love of hydraulics! Here she talks about her passion for her work and what gives Atkins such a distinctive culture.

“I joined the Bristol office back in 1997 and worked my way up to Chartered engineer and then project manager, studying for a masters and a PhD along the way. My particular area of expertise is urban drainage and flood risk.

Actually it’s more than an area of expertise; it’s a passion. I love the fact that I help to safeguard schools, hospitals and housing from flooding. That doesn’t just protect people from disasters, but impacts on the welfare of lives too. I know that through my work, people can enjoy peace of mind and sleep at night without worry.

Although this has always been a male dominated environment, I’m now seeing more women coming into the business. That’s a great thing, and not just because I’d like more females around! I do think that the best ideas come from diverse teams where people bring different opinions, outlooks and viewpoints.

Having said that, the team culture here has always been a bit special. It’s like a mini family in which people understand, trust and support each other. Everyone knows each other by name and people are always ready to stop and have a chat. It does feel like a community, even in such a large organisation.

When I had twins, I took maternity leave then came back part-time. I then had another child and returned again. During this time, flexibility was hugely important and Atkins just gets it. The company understands what people need to balance their careers and parenthood while maintaining a good work/life balance.

That level of support really came into its own when my daughter Molly was diagnosed with Leukaemia. She has been out of chemotherapy for 18 months now, but looking back, I was amazed at just how much my team and the company wanted to help. They were here for us when we needed them. It’s something I’ll never forget.

A real high point was in 2012 when I was nominated by my colleagues to be a torchbearer for the Olympics. It was very humbling to be honest but a wonderful experience. My team mates and I also abseiled down Bristol Children’s Hospital which was scary to say the least! That was to raise money for the charity CLIC Sergent, which supports children and young people with cancer.

The kids’ party at Christmas was brilliant too. My children couldn’t believe that their mum worked in such a great place. I can remember them looking round and going “wow”! That made me feel very proud of the environment and my job.

Right now I can’t actually tell you about what I’m working on because it’s a top secret project! It’s going to have a huge impact when it’s completed though – and this is the most exciting job I have ever worked on. That’s the thing with Atkins: you never know what’s around the corner. I can honestly say that in my 14 years here, I haven’t been bored once.”

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