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Civils ambassador

Working lives - Lucy Penman explains how winning an award has given her control of her career and a new sense of purpose.

It is a sunny day on the Taylor Woodrow East London Line site in Shoreditch and Lucy Penman is clearly glad to be there.

Last year's winner of the NCE Graduate of the Year has spent recent months carrying out finishing works on the King's Cross redevelopment project 'doing the floors, wall tiles and plastering - making sure the hand rails didn't clash with the wall!' She confesses that it's good to be back on site tackling solid civils challenges.

Since winning the title in 2004, Penman has met with Construction Minister Nigel Griffiths and blown the £1,000 prize money on a skiing holiday.

'Winning the award raised my profile within the company, ' she says. Penman felt 'privileged' to be selected by Taylor Woodrow to attend a Younger Stars course on the challenges of major projects in January.

But aside from being what she self-deprecatingly calls, 'the company mascot', Penman is developing a role as an engineering ambassador and campaigner.

Penman has ambitions to raise the profile of engineers by launching a national construction competition on TV.

'I've got a mission to get us on Blue Peter by the end of the year, ' she says with a smile.

'There's a big gap between Bob the Builder and documentaries about Brunel that needs to be filled.' Penman will join ICE President Colin Clinton in a select transport forum in September to garner views from 12 older and younger members.

And Penman is also a keen member of Generation for Collaboration (g4C), a construction industry forum that aims to encourage crossindustry and cross-generational collaboration to work out ways of attracting people into and retaining people in construction.

But one of the key benefits of the Graduate of the Year competition for Penman was to help her focus on what kind of engineer she wants to be.

'It made me sit down and think about my career. It's easy to drift through the first three or four years, ' she says.

Penman confesses she only discovered her real passion for engineering after graduating, during a three month project building footpaths in Chile. 'My brain was put more into gear than the four years before, and going on to site was a progression of that, ' she says.

But for now, working as site engineer on the East London Line second stage enabling works project is proving a satisfying challenge.

Penman is carrying out impact assessment of the refurbishment works to the viaduct, which cuts through many of the residential areas between Shoreditch and Highbury.

'I'm putting together section 61 applications (noise agreement with the council) and figuring out how to sequence works to comply with noise restrictions, ' she explains.

The greater responsibility suits Penman. 'It's great to be here in these critical early days.

I've always joined projects when they've been there a couple of years. They'd really notice if I was off for a week.' After this project, Penman will spend a year on a design placement and should achieve chartered civil engineer status, after which she plans to 'come back and work up to become a senior engineer on big projects'.

'I'd like to be the person who makes the decision on a project, or at least puts forward the case for it, ' she says.

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