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Passion for innovation? Get out on site as a contracts manager

Having started out in life as a teacher, Bachy Soletanche contracts engineer Ruth Webster is now eight years in to a career in construction. She sees no barriers to anyone – male or female – getting stuck in to a hugely rewarding engineering career.

What do you most look forward to on a Monday morning?

My job is different every day, so Monday mornings are always full of challenges, surprises and unexpected tasks. It is the variety of the challenges that makes life so appealing, and working with my team to overcome them is exciting to say the least.

Why does your job matter so much?

The construction industry is diverse, progressive and ever changing. Being in a position to contribute to industry innovations is hugely important to me. It’s also very inspiring to always be involved in the early stages of a major project – that’s what’s great about foundations, without them we wouldn’t have a construction industry.

What specific skills do you offer?

Naturally I have all the relevant experience and qualifications to competently deliver in my role – but I would say I’m a people person, and for me this is a real strength. Communication is a key part of my role and is an area I thoroughly enjoy about my job. Working as a team with clear and purposeful conversation is key to effective contract management. It also means I have the pleasure of liaising with clients, site teams, suppliers and other contractors – so I get a wider perspective on all the jobs I work on.

What stands out as the most valuable thing you’ve done?

I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on major infrastructure projects during my time at Bachy. The work we delivered for Crossrail as part of these projects was vital and extremely purposeful. And to be a part of such an impactful wider scheme, was really inspiring. I also worked on a site as part of the Lee Tunnel project, which has a reputation of its own within the industry. To have played a part in these major projects holds real value for me – you can see the direct impact your hard work has on a wider industry, making the day-to-day feel really worthwhile.

How did you get into the job?

I originally worked in teaching, but ended up following in my mother’s footsteps and entering the construction industry soon after. Initially I worked in an administrative role, but as soon as I got a flavour for the sector, I wanted a more hands on position. From there, I worked hard to progress and undertake the relevant qualifications and training to become a Contracts Engineer.

How far removed from the traditional role of the civil engineer do you think your job is?

Hugely so! I would say our design team takes on the more traditional civil engineering role and that my role has adapted into project management.

How do you see it changing in next five years?

BIM is and will continue to have a major impact on the way our industry works. It’s exciting to see the efficiencies of BIM really taking effect – I’m sure in five years time we will continue to be industry leading in our field as our BIM team continues to embrace and work with new technologies. There’s also been a recent focus on infrastructural improvements across the UK, in which Bachy has played its part, so I’m confident future infrastructure projects will also be on the horizon.

What’s going to be the most exciting thing about it then?

It’s exciting to be part of something new and innovative, and I can’t see this changing within the next five years. Construction may be an age-old industry but in recent years I think the sector as a whole has addressed archaic practice and systems and embraced the future for growth – it’s certainly an exciting time to be working in the industry.

What’s your advice to someone like you?

If you have a passion for innovation, people and want a job where you will be delivering something real and purposeful, the construction industry is probably for you. Don’t be put off by old school stereotypes; the construction industry is a contemporary, growing and changeable sector – and tends to be at the forefront of the economy and technological developments, making it an exciting place to be. There’s potential to progress, diversify your skills and embrace new skills. If that appeals, then work your socks off, network and most importantly, enjoy the ride!  

What would you be if you weren’t in this role?

I have absolutely no idea! I love my job and would probably feel extremely unsatisfied in another role. Whatever it was, it would need to be a challenge to come anywhere close to civil engineering.

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