At DDC we’re a big advocate of equal opportunities, especially when it comes to self-development and career progression for our team. Today, we celebrate Women in Engineering Day and we would like to thank our colleagues for their hard work and dedication. The women in our team are confident, talented and determined.
In the last few years an increasing number of companies and influential figures have encouraged women to join the engineering sector. Research shows that one of the main challenges with balancing gender inequality in business is the lack of female mentors and role models for young women to aspire to. Having a female Technical Director, we thought we’d ask Carol Lewis-Han about her journey in the industry and what she loves about her job.
Carol is a Chartered Construction Manager with The Chartered Institute of Building (MCIOB) and also a qualified professional with the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (MCInstCES), a passionate leader and an inventive soul. She’s been instrumental in the development of our innovative DIM software. Always seeking sustainable solutions to promote a positive environmental impact, she’s also leading DDC’s processes of becoming BIM Level 2 certified. These are just a few of her initiatives and we can vouch that her enthusiasm is contagious.
Can you tell us how you started your career as an engineer, and where do you see your career heading?
It was over 10 years ago, I had completed my degree in Construction Management with the ambition of becoming a construction project manager in the future. However, things pan out differently and I landed a job at a civil engineering consultancy, DDC. In the past 10 years, I have grown from a graduate project engineer to a senior project engineer, and now I’m the Technical Director.
To begin with, due to my academic background, I needed to be thoroughly committed and work extremely hard to be able to complete my tasks. I prioritised my work and setup my goals to be met daily. I self-studied all work related civil engineering techniques, terms and regulations, and all of these have become part of my nature and will aid me for the rest of my career. With 10 years in the industry, I am still enjoying my job every day. I am working towards becoming a Chartered Civil Engineer, and I expect to achieve the privilege in the next two years.
What do you love most about your job?
I love challenges and I believe that’s a key driver to personal improvement. What I really enjoy in my current job is that I am out of my comfort zone every day. Every task I undertake is different and covers many aspects, I need to work out different solutions for each task individually. This process can be stressful, but I would not swap it for anything else, I get a really great feeling of achievement on the completion of a project.
Of course, I am very thankful to our Owner and Managing Director, Dean and Lisa who gave me this opportunity and provide me with constant support and encouragement.
Would you say there’s a gender gap in your industry?
I wish I could say no, but the answer is yes (it still surprises me when I hear it verbalised that people are surprised to find a woman in my role). There is still a gender gap regarding participation with only 13% of engineering jobs beng occupied by women in the UK.
According to a New Civil Engineer reported recently, there is also a pay gap between genders. Thankfully, the gender gap does not exist at DDC. Closing this gap in the industry is going to take time, however I do believe that the gap is closing – surveys indicate progress in female participation rates from 9% in 2015 to 11% in 2017.
New young talent coming through should steadily improve this balance, however, the workforce is currently made up of an older demographic which is something we need to remain aware of. As long as we continue to communicate the positive aspects of engineering roles, I’m sure we will succeed. Changes within society and old-fashioned attitudes could aid this process, maybe young girls might enjoy playing with Lego/Meccano instead of a doll, but despite the name, social engineering is beyond our control! To borrow from a recent social media sporting trend #thisgirlcan, there’s no reason why not – all the young girls need is belief, support and opportunity!
What is you biggest accomplishment as an engineer?
It’s hard to choose, I’m proud of many things. I’m proud of my team, the teamwork and team spirit; the high-quality services we always deliver to our client’s satisfaction. The accomplishment I’m most proud of is the development of our in-house software DIM.
DIM was developed with the application of 15 years of drainage asset survey experience, combining the knowledge of all the DDC engineers, accommodating the requirements of clients, subcontractors and the regulations. I was heavily involved in the production of DIM (Drainage Information Modelling) and its implementation was complicated with the prototype test version failing – although teething problems with new solutions are to be expected. But I’m pleased to say that it’s up and running as intended and we are receiving positive feedback from our clients, to the extent that it has even been shortlisted for New Civil Engineers’ Techfest award in the Environmental Impact category. Wish us good luck!
Any advice for the future generation of women engineers?
There is presently a tendency of expectation for young talented people to gravitate toward academic learning to the detriment of any practical aspects. As a society we need to encourage a wider range of learning and experimentation where talent can be discovered.
There are opportunities out there and there is a skills shortage within the UK at present. A career in engineering could take young people around the world and it continues to be a dynamic and exciting industry. As with all things, belief, application and persistence are the qualities required to achieve.
Still many girls don’t think so. Maybe they don’t even know it’s a possibility, as they’re unconsciously discouraged by those around them innocuously.
The creativity of problem solving is fun, it’s also challenging, positive and innovative, especially when you work in a team that can push your ideas to the next level and help to design, develop, make and test your inspirations.
That has to be enjoyable for anyone, let alone someone with the qualities inherent in an engineer of creativity and curiousness. Leave the stereotypes to one side and get stuck in, create, invent, solve… it’ll be a fun ride!