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Tracey Radford, Principal engineering geologist, Atkins


Principal engineering geologist

"I started at Atkins 14 years ago, working for six weeks during the summer of 1999. Following completion of my MSc I was invited back and offered a full time position in 2000. Based in the Epsom office, I worked mainly on highways and rail schemes which took me across South East England and East Anglia. This gave me a firm grounding in how the industry operates and the opportunity to engage with clients and stakeholders, undertake site supervision and be involved in design and construction of several schemes.

My enthusiasm in these early years resulted in being invited by one of my colleagues to join the Engineering Group of the Geological Society as a committee member. It was with my eagerness that I went on to supervise the ground investigation and work on the design for the redevelopment of Colchester Garrison. The job proved to be fairly complex, needing to liaise with army officers and undertake unexploded ordnance searches at every location as well as accommodate the requests and needs of the changing design in the planned works.

My next challenge was working on the Tel Aviv Mass Transit System. The region has large cemented sand dunes and palaeosols (locally known as ‘Kurkar’ and ‘Hamra’) and Alluvium, which proved difficult to sample and test. Consequently a huge effort was required from me and the team, to analyse the large amount of ground investigation data, understand the ground conditions and characterise its geotechnical behaviour for the proposed tunnels and deep excavations.

The end of the Tel Aviv project coincided with a slightly earlier than planned arrival of my first child. I took six months out, handing work over to colleagues, but continued to maintain an active involvement with the Engineering Group of the Geological Society. I chaired the inaugural Engineering Group Forum on Transport Infrastructure in 2005, holding the position of secretary between 2005 and 2008, and subsequently chaired the second International Seminar on Earthworks in Europe in 2009.

In 2007 many Atkins staff were called to work on the London 2012 Olympics, such was the demand for huge site remediation and engineering design. However, I answered the call to sign the official secrets act and work for the Ministry of Defence on some of the UK’s most sensitive projects instead. In this environment I worked alongside some of the industry’s specialists to construct detailed ground models for the sites to allow for assessment of static and seismic loading.

Another bouncing boy arrived in 2007 and I returned to work in 2008, working four days a week, and became project manager for two highway schemes on the A21. I led a large project team to undertake preliminary design of earthworks and retaining walls and investigate a large landslide area. More recently I have been working on the HS2 project and developed and implemented a risk assessment process for a number of our clients in the water sector.

Alongside my project work, I am also responsible for Atkins’ Ground Engineering Academy. The academy was developed to provide a structured training plan for graduates and provides an opportunity to gain core skills, experiences and competencies through lunchtime presentations, discussion groups, bespoke training courses, field trips and our acclaimed technical conferences. Through the academy I have organised field trips to the Peak District and Dorset as well as organising and hosting a large conference earlier this year.

In my next steps I will be leading the development of our Ground Engineering Professionals Programme, which is to facilitate strong professional development to match the passion and skills of our people post-Chartership. I have to admit, it is not easy to juggle having a career with two young boys at home, commitments to Girl Guiding and also coaching at Crowborough Rugby Football Club, but I am most definitely up for the challenge and looking forward to bigger and better things in the future."

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