After working as a senior engineer with another company, Jan Windle was planning to downshift when she was offered the job of developing Whitbybird's geotechnical team two years ago. 'I walked in and could feel a buzz about the place, ' she says. 'Because the team was so new, it meant that my role would be growing with the company.' The 24-strong, London-based geotechnics team is already working on some extremely complex projects, including the massive St David's development in Cardiff and Elizabeth House in London, which sits directly on top of rail and underground lines.
'We look at each project as though it is unique and we will always look at reusing piles and geothermal piles, ' she explains. 'We work with our other engineering teams right from the start so we have the opportunity to take our ideas forward, because they don't get lost down the chain.' Windle plans to expand the team to over 30 during the next two to three years.
Design engineer Katharine Scott first encountered Whitbybird at a school careers event, which she followed up with a week's work experience. During her gap year she spent a further six months with the company.
'I learned a lot, ' she recalls.
'I hadn't had any engineeringspecific education at the time and I ended up doing some simple design. It really helped in my first year at university.' The company sponsored Scott through her degree, which she followed with a Masters in environmental building design, during which she worked in the office for one day a week. 'It really gave me a feel for the industry while I was doing my academic studies, ' she says.
'By that time I was in a team and had my own desk. Despite only coming in one day a week I was involved in projects. I've been in the same team ever since.' Scott nished her Masters in 2005 and is now working towards her ICE Professional Review. 'From the day you walk in the door you're put straight into a project with a certain degree of responsibility, ' she says.
Australian engineer Phil Latham joined Whitbybird in 2005 after a stint with an international consultant working on Stadium Australia, Wembley and a large port in India. 'I was looking for a company that had a big presence in the architectural buildings market in the UK and a strong culture, ' he explains. 'I wanted to get more involved in design in a pure sense.
His first projects with the company included Phase 2 of the massive BBC redevelopment in west London. Then the opportunity came up for three months in the company's Dubai office, working on the detailed design of a 50-storey development in Sharjah. 'It was a part of the world that I had always wanted to work in, ' he says. 'I was out there within a week or two of putting my hand up.' Now back in the UK, his projects include a £45M development in Leeds, a £350M, 900-unit, mixed-use development in east London, and a £60M office in Victoria where the foundations are being reused.
'Your career progression is defined by your own drive, ' he says. 'If you want to go off and do something you go off and do it.'
Design engineer Lynden Spencer-Allen joined Whitbybird in 2005 after a year working in London with a contractor that had sponsored him through university. 'I worked on sites through the summers. I feel that design is something you can't do without seeing it going up on site so I wanted to go out there and build it. As an engineer, someone's got to be able to pick up your drawings and build from them.' Having studied at Cambridge University he wanted to stay in the area so joined Whitbybird's growing team in the city. 'I've been involved in a whole range of projects, ' he explains. 'One of the projects I followed through was a new lab building for the university. I worked on it from scheme design right through to construction.' His current projects include a 70,000m 2 storage facility in Norwich, redevelopment of the University of East London and schemes in East Anglia, Shefeld and Leicester. 'Everything is done from rst principles, ' he says. 'We approach each new structure with a fresh outlook to avoid simply reusing previous designs and to create the best solution for that particular project.'
Like many people, Martin Feakes felt the urge to get some different experience after ve years in his rst job. He had been at Whitbybird's London ofce since leaving university and felt a desire to see what else was out there. 'The management was very supportive and understanding of that, ' he says.
He went to a multidisciplinary consultancy, which he really enjoyed, but after two years decided to return. 'My experience there reinforced the good things about Whitbybird, ' he says. 'The whole environment broadens your horizons and increases condence. We constantly challenge and question ourselves and aren't afraid to challenge other members of the design team as well.
'We have a reputation for innovation - not for innovation's sake but to draw out value for the client, contractor or architect. What we do is underpinned by a deep sense of practicality.' Feakes is now an associate director and leads a structures team in London.
'Team leaders are people managers, but we are still designers who get stuck in.
Doing that is the best way of coaching young engineers; they can see how you're interacting with other disciplines and take a lead from that.' Since returning three years ago, most of his projects have been in London. The latest is typical of the challenges he has faced. 'We had the Central Line below ground, an electricity sub-station above, a listed Art Deco building on one side and an original Wren church on the other.'
Before joining Whitbybird as a director 18 months ago, Alan Tweedie had been involved with some of Europe's most exciting structures, including Stansted Airport, the Torre de Collserolla telecommunications tower in Barcelona and the Commerzbank in Frankfurt. While working as structural project manager on the Scottish Parliament Building he started an MBA.
'I had always been project-based and I felt a formal business education would be a nice balance to all that project work, ' he explains. 'When I came to the end of that I felt the urge for a new challenge.' At the time Whitbybird was thinking of opening an ofce in Edinburgh, Tweedie's home town. 'I decided that was something I'd like to take on, ' he says. 'It would give me the opportunity to use my experience to help Whitbybird achieve its business objectives.' Tweedie's plan was for the new ofce to have a 30-strong multidisciplinary engineering team within ve years. The company is over half way there after just 18 months.