SAE – Jennie Harrison

I am a Principal Engineer (Roads) at AECOM

I’m a civil engineer in the roads team. Civil engineers are responsible for designing, constructing and managing large scale infrastructure projects. For my career so far, I have been designer and project manager, and been fortunate to work on projects such a Manchester Metrolink tram lines extensions and M62 junctions 10-12 (Smart Motorway).

I studied MEng Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. I undertook summer placements with different companies in each of three summers of my degree to find out which sectors of civil engineering I want to work in. I graduated in 2009 and joined AECOM as a graduate engineer. I am still working at AECOM in the same team, but I am now a Principal Engineer. I have been fortunate to able to undertake secondment to local authorities and assist National Highways which has allowed me to experience projects from a different perspective.

One of my proudest moments so far was when I became chartered with the Institution of Civil Engineers, after several years of hard work.
I was also very proud when a car park I designed was finally built. There were some technical and programme challenges, which were really tough at the time, but then such satisfaction when we worked together to resolve the issues. I was also deputy project manager and supervised some of the construction, so very much “lived and breathed” the project.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Nowadays I spend most of my time at work managing projects rather than being heavily involved in the design. I am responsible for the project being completed on time and to budget, liaising with stakeholders and managing the team to deliver the project for our client. There can be a lot of meetings sometimes!
Sometimes I visit site, but generally I am office based.

What advice would you give to your 15 year old self

Keep working hard and trying your best but remember to take breaks and have some fun in Sixth Form and Uni.
Don’t worry, everything will be OK in the end. You got this!

Who or what inspired you to get into engineering?

In sixth form, I participated in a project with the Royal Academy of Engineering where we had to design a moveable bridge over a reinstated canal in my hometown. I really enjoyed the project, especially looking at all the constraints which need to be considered.

What are your favourite hobbies, or interests?

My favourite hobbies, interests and pastimes outside of work include knitting, crafting, photography, running, being an active member of local Women’s Institute and spending time with my family (I have two young children).

What are the best and worst things about the job?

The best thing is seeing the piece of infrastructure you designed being built and then used by the general public. The worst thing is that I personally struggle with the work life balance.

Where do you see your industry in 25 – 30 years time?

I see the construction industry in 25-50 years’ time as a very digital industry and mainly looking at improving what we have rather than new construction. It will be interesting to see how things develop with driverless cars and what impact that will have on civil engineering.