Nicola Evans, Project Engineer, Wessex Water
What is your current job?
My role mainly deals with the network system - the pipes, pumping stations and sewers between the treatment works and people's homes. As a Project Engineer I oversee the whole of the project so my responsibilities include all the planning and design before the work begins; liaising with our staff and contractors as they do the work; and consulting with the public, councils, other utility companies and contractors to avoid construction problems while the work is on-going. I am also responsible for overseeing all the finance and writing contract paperwork.
What do you love about your job?
I like being able to see each project through from start to finish and having the satisfaction of seeing the end result. Wessex Water provides water and sewerage services across much of the West and South of England so I visit a wide range of sites, many in very beautiful areas. Each project has different challenges, from finding bats in a building to having to close a main road in a sensitive area.
Why did you choose a job in engineering?
I did not plan to be an engineer. I left school at 16 and did a variety of admin jobs which was not really what I wanted to do. One temporary job was with Wessex Water stores which led to work in the main office and later into the statutory team. This team ensures that all of the equipment on site conforms to legislation and is safe to work on. My role here changed to a technician and I started to go out on site to carry out inspections on radio masts, safety harness etc. I took maternity leave and when I returned to work I was asked if I was interested in moving departments and working as a project technician where I would be in charge of running schemes myself. Wessex Water supported me to study for four years so I could gain an ONC and then an HNC at Bath College. This was very daunting, as I was one of the few females and the oldest person on the course. It helped that there were two other females on the course and one stayed on the course, like me, for the four years.
What skills and qualities do you need?
Having good organisational skills and being able to think logically is important. When running a number of small schemes this is an essential tool and makes the project management easier. My colleagues know I will deliver on any project as I have a 'can do' attitude and a positive outlook.
Imagination is important. When planning a project I need to look at it from the point of view of the person who is going to be using it once it is completed. For example does the equipment need to be installed that high up? Could it be installed at a lower level to make maintenance more straightforward?
What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering?
Although engineering is still a very male dominated profession keep persevering and follow your dreams.
When you were at school, what would have helped you prepare for a career in engineering and become more employable?
Knowing what I do now I would have taken more of an interest in science, maths and technical drawing.
It is important to have interests outside work. I've two sons who play rugby and football, so I go along to support them. When I have time to myself I enjoy reading.