She's an Engineer- Jo Parker

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Route into engineering

I took a degree in Civil Engineering and got a job as a graduate with Thames Water. I started in the design office but then went out on site. I took a secondment for a year to work for the chairman then came back and worked in various different departments. I took a year off to work for a charity in Afghanistan and then managed water treatment works. I moved to Wessex Water and then Affinity Water where I managed water treatment and also water networks. In 2004, I left to start up my own consultancy and have run this ever since, working all over the world and helping water utilities to manage their water supplies better.

Job description

I provide advice to people who install and manage water mains. This includes checking the quality of work on site, designing new installations, training engineers and operational staff, managing research projects into how we can run our water networks more efficiently and managing the introduction of new techniques and improvements to drinking water networks.

It is very varied. I may be out on a construction site, checking that the quality of work is correct. I may also be chasing up actions for projects or ensuring that everyone who needs to know the progress of a project has been informed. I may be checking water network designs or developing presentations for training courses back in my office.

Make sure you take every opportunity to look at work being done and ask questions about it - people love to be asked about their work and to find people interested in their work. Ask them what they are doing, why they are doing it and what could go wrong and how do they stop that happening. Be curious about everything.

The best things are the constant variety - I may be working on a completely new piece of equipment 1 day and then helping a town in a developing country set up some basic procedures for reducing the amount of water they lose through leakage from their water network. The worst thing is getting to a construction site to find that the gangs aren't ready to do the work and having to wait around, especially if the weather is cold and wet.

My work is one of the sustainability goals - SDG 6 - providing water and sanitation for all. My work has allowed more people to be connected to water networks and for poorer communities to have new water installations.

When I first started it was much harder (that was 45 years ago) and I was repeatedly told women could not be in charge of manual labour. I took the job in Afghanistan to prove that I could manage manual labour (Afghan well diggers) and got a job managing water treatment works which included quite a large number of manual workers. From then on, I never looked back.

J.Parker 3 pictures