BackgroundWhen did you join Atkins?
I joined Atkins in 2000 as a graduate civil engineer in the structures department of Atkins’ rail business.
Why did you want to join the company?
I was travelling across North America for 12 months after my degree and before I came home I did an internet search for “the top 20 engineering consultancy firms” and sent my CV from Toronto to all of them! Atkins happened to be on that list.
What did you do before you joined Atkins?
Before I joined Atkins I studied Civil Engineering at the University of Abertay and then travelled for 12 months.
What is your role and responsibilities?
I work in engineering design in the offshore wind industry.
How do you describe what you do to friends and family?
My five-year-old daughter used to tell people that I “build winter blinds” – she now understands that it’s actually to do with wind turbines!
Usually I keep it short and say I am an engineer working on engineering design in the offshore wind industry. This either ends up in a good conversation going into more depth or – more often – a glazed look!
Do you have any professional accreditations?
I am a Chartered engineer and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
What key projects have you worked on?
In 2004 I worked on one of the largest road construction projects undertaken in Scotland in recent times (Glasgow Southern Orbital) as the designer of Thorntonhall Rail Bridge, and followed this through with a great role as designer’s site representative on site.
What are you currently working on?
I am enjoying my current role as project manager working on one of the first deep-water windfarm developments in the UK. The team has delivered the concept phase of this very technically challenging project with really innovative engineering solutions of turbine substructures, and we are now building a strong multidisciplinary team for the two-year detailed design phase which will commence in June 2013.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Completing the detailed design of Thorntonhall Rail Bridge and being on site during its entire construction is certainly a memorable time. It was this project that I used to demonstrate my competence as a civil engineer at my Chartered Professional Review.
What’s the most technically challenging project you’ve worked on at Atkins?
As mentioned, I am currently working on a deep-water offshore windfarm and the overall complexity of the design, fabrication and installation is mind-blowing.
To give an appreciation of the scale of the engineering, our substructures will sit in water up to 60m deep, each supporting a turbine the size of Big Ben with the London Eye spinning around at the top! This particular site has the plan area the size of Glasgow and has an energy production capacity of 1000MW, which equates to a whopping 166no. of our 1000t substructures with 664no. 40m long piles!
The project is being delivered by an alliance and this integrated team has to resolve a number of questions and deliver an engineering solution: How are these structures, turbines, substations, cables, etc. designed to withstand the forces of nature and deliver energy to the grid? How are these massive structures built safely and to quality requirements? How are their enormous weights lifted and loaded out onto vessels? How are they transported to site in the hostile North Sea conditions? How are they installed safely in difficult environmental conditions to tight tolerances?
Why not just throw in the pressures of capex reduction, optimising opex and meeting a programme for something that hasn’t been done on this scale before? Well, go on then, that’s why we are engineers!
The Atkins factor
How has your career developed at Atkins?
As with most graduates joining Atkins, I entered into a training agreement which gave me the opportunity to seek out different roles and responsibilities during my initial professional development. Mostly these opportunities were within a technical environment, utilising the skills I learned at university.
After achieving Chartered status there were three routes within Atkins that I wanted to keep open: engineering management, project management and business management. I have succeeded in balancing my career development in all three of these areas through taking on various responsibilities in delivering bids and projects as well as staying close to the business side of things such as market assessment, resource management, productivity forecasting / monitoring and, most importantly, building a network of trusting relationships.
How have you been supported during your career development?
I have received great support throughout my career development and appreciate that Atkins’ culture has allowed me to keep three potential career paths open. I believe that one is in the driving seat for one’s own career development and therefore I adopted a proactive approach to applying for training courses, requesting new roles and organising my own development reviews with seniors.
How do engineers and Atkins make a difference?
I believe that engineers lead the way in the development and progression of society, creating infrastructure in a sustainable way that brings us water, shelter, energy, transport, communication and more. Atkins is involved in all engineering sectors that are required to allow life to function as we know it today. We are not only involved in the detail of delivering small, important projects but Atkins is also at the forefront of engineering around the world delivering major, exciting, high-profile projects.
How would you describe the culture at Atkins?
Atkins has one major asset and that is its people. It is what we sell. When clients buy Atkins they are buying our talented people. The standard of new starters and existing staff in Atkins is very high and our clients know this. The range of job opportunities and training programmes to develop people’s careers within Atkins is also very high and clients also know this. I believe we have a vibrant, energetic and intellectual culture.