This Wednesday, we interviewed Alex Mather, a Graduate Bridge Engineer
Hi Alex, thanks for talking to Women in Construction and Trade today! Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I am a Graduate Bridges Engineer working at WSP, with experience working in the Highways discipline. Im currently working on an inspection and assessment project; focusing on a variety of bridges in the North West.
And what was it that motivated you to get into engineering?
I always enjoyed Maths and Physics in school but wanted to study a subject that would allow me to use these skills to solve real-world problems. Engineering is so rewarding as it gives you the opportunity to help so many people, both directly and indirectly.
How did you get to where you are now? Were there any setbacks you had to overcome?
I studied Maths, Further Maths and Physics at A-Level and then a degree in Civil Engineering with Project Management at the University of Leeds. One of the main setbacks was moving away from home for University – I found that it took me a while to adjust to being away from my family whilst being on an intense degree course!
And did you always want to be an engineer when you grew up?
I had such an interest in Chemistry in school and had originally been looking at Chemical Engineering as a career! It wasn’t until I attended an Engineering careers day with sixth-form that I learnt about Civil Engineering– I was so impressed by the huge structures, and intrigued to learn about the ways Civil Engineers can design to help communities all over the world
What would you say your favourite project you’ve worked on is?
One of my favourites was the A684 Safe Roads Scheme – it was one of the first ever projects I worked on in my career, back when I was working within the Highways discipline. As a part of the project, I was given a number of road sections within Yorkshire and given the task to improve their safety. I analysed the accident data from the road sections to identify the main cause of accidents and sculpted my designs for upgraded road markings and road signage to my findings.
As fun as being out on site on a mega-project is, this has to have been my favourite because I knew my designs were directly helping in reducing accidents in the areas and keeping people safe, which I found so rewarding!
What do you see in your future – or, if you’d rather – what does your ideal future look like?
In my immediate future I would like to become a Chartered Civil Engineer. My ideal future is a job still working within the Bridges discipline and hopefully back in the office a lot more than we are currently!! I would love to expand my Project Management experience on large projects.
What’s your biggest life goal?
To inspire as many young people into Civil Engineering as possible and to promote diversity within the construction industry from all aspects – whether that be gender, disability or any other group. A goal of mine, although not personal, is to see inclusion levels increase significantly.
Who are your female role models and why?
Firstly, my Mum. She puts 100% into her work at all times and seems to never stop – its something I’ve only been able to fully appreciate as I’ve started my career myself, so I have 20 years of appreciation to catch up on! I feel like as a child it can be a hard concept to grasp.
In the Engineering industry, my role models are Jo Douglas-Harris and Paula McMahon – they are also members of the Womens Engineering Society Tyneside and Teesside cluster! They have been nothing but supportive of me throughout my career and the work they do to promote diversity in Engineering is so inspiring
Do you have any guidance for other women who are just entering your industry?
If you ever feel alienated within the industry because of your gender (which I am very fortunate to not have felt – however adversities surrounding gender unfortunately still exist) I would recommend getting involved in a group that celebrates diversity within construction. NAWIC (National Association for Women in Construction) has a number of local committees all over the country – and the work they do to celebrate gender diversity in the industry is truly inspiring.
Do you feel there are many opportunities for women within your industry?
Absolutely. I strongly believe there is an opportunity for anybody to thrive within the industry – a common stereotype with construction is that it’s purely about the physical construction when there is so much more than this! Construction can be the design, redevelopment and repair of structures and there is so much going on behind the scenes – roles can range from project management, contractual and legal professionals, heritage specialists and health and safety advisors to name a few. I believe there is a role for everybody.
Have you ever engaged with any organisations who are pushing for gender equality in your industry?
I am a member of the Womens Engineering Society Tyneside and Teesside cluster and the National Early Careers Board – I help to plan and promote events celebrating gender diversity in our industry. I have also been a previous member of NAWIC in the North East – the committee held amazing networking events and allowed me to meet so many inspirational women within the industry.
We like to end with a desert island round! Three tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island?
Max Manie – Sunday (KlangTherapeuten remix)
Hot Chip – Flutes
Dr. Dre – Still D.R.E.
My book would be The Hunger Games and my luxury would be an Alpaca!
This was Alex, who can be found on Twitter at AlexMatherSTEM. You can also find her talking on Jaemie Hutton’s Engineering Success Podcast Profile Editions over here on Youtube!
This interview was for our #WiCW series – a compilation of articles from inspirational women in the Construction and Trades industries.