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Susan Pollard, Principal geotechnical engineer, Atkins

Susan

Principal geotechnical engineer

"I joined Atkins in 2002 to broaden my skills and work on more challenging and exciting projects. I began working as a geotechnical design engineer for the Galliford-Costain-Atkins (GCA) Joint Venture, delivering design-and-build water projects to United Utilities for the AMP3 period. This gave me invaluable design and construction experience which, combined with the support I received from my supervising and delegate civil engineers, enabled me to pass my ICE Chartered Professional Review in 2004.

I went on to lead the geotechnical design team for the GCA-JV throughout AMP4 and 5. I really enjoyed the challenge of delivering multiple concurrent projects and tackling some complex technical issues such as the design of deep tanks, shafts and pipelines, often with problematic ground conditions. Working on design-and-build projects was great experience and it was very satisfying to see my designs being constructed.

At the start of 2007, after the birth of my first child, I returned to work on a part-time basis. I wanted to continue to develop a rewarding career but also spend time with my children. Working four days a week I am able to do just that; the key is flexibility and I have found that Atkins has been supportive of my lifestyle choice. Life is hectic, but there’s never a dull moment!

My largest and most exciting project to date has been the Liverpool Waste Water treatment works, a £188m dock reclamation and treatment works extension project for United Utilities. The scheme has involved the dredging of 77,500m3 of contaminated silt from Wellington dock, construction of a dock closure cofferdam, infilling of the dock with 210,000m3 of marine-won sand, construction of over 1,000 piles for an innovative Sequential Batch Reactor and a deep pumping station. It was great to be working in a fast-paced environment on a challenging major project with significant geotechnics. Alongside its technical complexity the scheme presented some important programme challenges and it was great to work collaboratively with both GCA and United Utilities to deliver a project which is of strategic importance to the North West.

One of the best aspects about working for Atkins’ ground engineering team is the opportunity to work on projects in several sectors. In the last few years I have worked on flood defence projects for the Environment Agency, highways and rail schemes, and energy projects. This has given me the opportunity to manage multidisciplinary projects as well as broadening my technical expertise. Many of the transferable skills I have gained working in a design-and-build environment, providing practical solutions with a strong client focus, have proved invaluable.

More recently I was offered the opportunity to take on a role as the ground engineering team leader for Warrington, which I grabbed with both hands. I really enjoy my role as it is so varied. I am responsible for workload coordination and forecasting, as well as staff leadership and personal development for a team of over 20 geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists. I think it is great that Atkins values its people and is investing heavily in its people through schemes such as the Ground Engineering Academy and Ground Engineering Professionals Programme. I am passionate about technical excellence and as an engineer I am also keen to maintain my technical and project focus as well."

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