Thursday 23 June 2022 is International Women in Engineering Day. Starting in the UK as a national campaign from the Women’s Engineering Society, it has grown enormously since then, receiving UNESCO patronage in 2016 and going global in 2017.
We have a number of women in engineering and technical roles within Marshalls. We want to put a spotlight on two members of our brilliant team - Karin Carnielli, Structural Engineer within the Civils and Drainage division and Amy Bownes, Design Technician in Marshalls Design Team, to find out more about the work they do and their views on being a woman in the industry.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
AB – I studied Architectural Technology at Huddersfield University and joined Marshalls in 2014 as a Design Technician within the Marshalls Design Team. As an Architectural Technician, I’d guide clients and construction design teams to bring new structures to life and my role at Marshalls follows this. In essence, my role is to make things work by turning sketches into something buildable.
KC – I’m originally from Brazil, where I gained a civil/structural engineering degree. After graduating, I worked on construction sites as an intern and then in Engineering consultancies. I was doing that in Sao Paulo for seven years before moving to the UK in 2018, which is when I joined Marshalls. I spent some time in the Design and Engineering team and currently work as a Structural Engineer within our Civils & Drainage division. Structural engineers work on the bones of a building or structure, ensuring it stays together under heavy forces, such as gravity, wind and the movements of people inside. We use calculations and analysis to design all types of structures, including buildings, bridges, towers, marine structures, dams, tunnels and retaining walls.
What made you choose construction and engineering as a career?
KC – As a child I was always fascinated by buildings and enjoyed looking at designs and plans with my father. I loved mathematics and physics and Structural Engineers use that knowledge to ensure things stay up. I was always more interested in the workings of what is going on underneath the building, than the architecture itself.
AB – I was the same. I knew what I wanted to do before I took my GCSEs. My dad asked me one day, “what uniform do I want to wear when I grow up, green, white or blue?” I didn’t fancy the idea of joining the armed forces or doing a stereotypical job. I told him I wanted to go to university and work in construction. He was always really supportive, but there is that perception still that Engineering jobs are for boys.
I love old buildings and that’s why I chose the degree I did. I wanted to learn how to preserve them, but what I love about my role now is the problem-solving element. Usually, we are given drawings but they need a lot of investigation and design to make them work well in a real-world environment.
Which projects have you enjoyed working on the most?
AB – The O2 Arena in London is probably the most famous landmark job I worked on, and we designed the internal paving for Marshalls on that job. I’ve worked on so many projects, though, many in key areas across central London. The Goldman Sachs planters are a classic design that I worked on as part of the Design Team, which was a highly complex job. I enjoy those jobs the most; projects requiring investigative work and problem solving are always the most interesting.
KC – I work mainly with bespoke water management designs and with our Redi-rock retaining walls. I need to be able to consider the different loading requirements necessary for its purpose and the detail of any rebar detail. I also need to consider performance on site, how much can we physically lift into place etc.
A favourite project for me was back in Sao Paulo at the Heart Institute (INCOR). We needed to engineer a two-storey extension on top of the existing building and were working with 50-year-old physical building design documents rather than the electronic versions we would use now. This made the work more challenging, but the clever part was working out the load requirements. We would generally understand the dead loads and live loads of a building, but a centre like this has special loading requirements because of the building use and the equipment inside. I followed this project from start to finish, working on-site to ensure the construction was correct before concrete was poured in place.
Do you feel women face challenges working in the Engineering industry?
KC – Definitely. In the past, when I’ve worked on construction sites I’ve sometimes felt uncomfortable. I was often the only woman and would ask a Manager to accompany me if I had to go to look at a job – because I would regularly be ignored otherwise.
AB – It was the same at university. Women were very much in the minority, there was only a handful of girls in a class full of boys. In my team at Marshalls I’m also the only woman; it would be great to have more women in the industry in general, because it’s a really interesting sector.
Why do you think this is and do you think the industry is getting better at recognising women in engineering professions?
AB - Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe women don’t feel like they can do these jobs I wasn’t pushed that way growing up, I just knew it was what I wanted to do. I hope things are getting better. I think our generation is more open to women in engineering roles and hopefully this will continue with younger generations.
KC - It’s good to hear more female voices in the industry, but if you look at the top of businesses in our industry, it is still very male-dominated.
What would you tell girls at school or starting their career who might be interested in Engineering and Construction?
AB – I’d tell them to follow their interests! Everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong career path.
KC – Yes, I agree. Follow your interests; it’s very gratifying to see creations come to life and think ‘I helped build that.’