This year’s NCE/ACE Young Consultant of the Year cites her colleagues, university professor and her mother as her biggest inspirations.
Winner: Nariba Gittens, Halcrow
Nariba Gittens, the winner of this year’s Young Consultant of the Year Award, says she wants to “inspire future generations” and “share her passion for engineering”.
She has an infectious energy for the profession that may well inspire an entire generation of engineers both in the UK and around the world. Barbados-born Gittens came to the UK to study civil and environmental engineering at Cardiff University, and has stayed here ever since.
She now works as a water engineer in Halcrow’s Cardiff office where she is currently responsible for answering technical queries relating to drainage and water issues on the £40M A487 Porthmadog Bypass in north Wales, as well as designing a series of fish passes.
She has shown a commitment to developing her own technical capability and building a career as a water engineer, and is currently working towards chartership of the ICE. But at the same time Gittens has a strong sense of responsibility to the profession, and to the wider community.
“Nariba is ambitious, with a clear vision of her career progression. She’s an inspiring role model.”
She has maintained a close relationship with Cardiff University, including arranging for Halcrow to sponsor a studio space within the university library where students can tap into the company’s industry knowledge.
She also produces a quarterly newsletter aimed at helping Halcrow’s directors and the university’s professors to identify mutual areas of interest in water engineering.
This close link with her alma mater taps into a deeper desire to champion knowledge and education, which she describes as “the key to change”.
Gittens also supports activities aimed at encouraging women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds into engineering, and she has contributed to a government-funded initiative on gender equality.
Wherever she works Gittens feels it is very important to be committed to the local community − as evidenced by her decision to learn the Welsh language.
“I believe it’s important for engineers to be aware of issues in international development and our duty to act on them.”
It is a skill that has already come in useful. “Many people living near the Porthmadog bypass have Welsh as their first language, and they sometimes find it easier to express how they’re feeling about the project if they know I understand a bit,” she says.
Ultimately Gittens would like to use her skills to improve conditions in developing countries by contributing expertise in flood resilience and water resources management.
“I believe it’s important for engineers to be aware of issues in international development and our duty to act on them,” she says.
The biggest challenge facing the industry, particularly in the developing world, she believes, is global warming. “It is such a challenge because it involves changing the way we think, act and influence people,” she says.
If engineers are to influence the future, then Gittens will surely be at the forefront. She has a genuine belief in the capacity of engineers to find the answers and the energy to take her message to the wider community. As the award judges agreed, she is “a real ambassador for the profession”.
Finalist: Melanie Buckley, Halcrow
Building physicist Melanie Buckley impressed the award judges with her sincerity and modesty, as well as her obvious enthusiasm for low carbon design.
At just 27 Buckley is a qualified BREEAM and SAP assessor, and works as a low carbon consultant at Halcrow, specialising in school design.
She admits “stumbling” into her career after googling “sustainability jobs UK”, but is passionate about encouraging more top graduates to get into building physics and services engineering.
“Although it is usually the architect who will receive public accolade, the design input from the building services engineer often has more of an effect on the quality of life of the future building occupants,” she says.
“With ‘sustainability’ a buzz word, building services engineers should capitalise on this interest.”
“With “sustainability” a buzz word in the current media, building services engineers should capitalise on this interest and raise the profile of their profession, particularly in the drive to produce zero carbon homes and schools.”
Buckley’s long-term aim is to be at the forefront of sustainable design, working on landmark projects for a company that has been sought out because of its expertise in zero carbon buildings.
With her undoubted technical ability and quiet determination it seems more than likely that she will achieve this ambition.
According to the judges Buckley has a “quiet leadership quality”, and is on “a journey that is developing into a great career”.
“She sends out a positive message to potential scientists who are transferring from either a physics or a scientific background to develop their skills into engineering,” they added.
Finalist: Hayley Gryc, Arup
Arup structural engineer Hayley Gryc believes that engineers who work globally should “think locally” by involving local people and understanding the environment in which they’re working.
“I have designed and built with traditional materials and construction techniques that have been used successfully for centuries. This raises the question as to why we are using more expensive and less sustainable materials,” she says.
Gryc is currently a project manager on the Renzo Piano designed redevelopment of Valetta City Gate in Malta.
“Engineers who work globally should think locally.”
This includes the country’s new parliament building, but also leads a team of engineers and architects who are developing a prototype for sustainable schools in Ghana.
While much of Gryc’s activities focus on developing countries, she has also proved her commitment to the UK consulting sector.
She spent a year as an apprentice to the ICE president in 2008, sits on the ICE’s best practice panel and is a member of the Young Professionals Shadow Steering Group on low carbon construction, as well as an ambassador for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET).
The judges said she is “a real champion when it comes to raising awareness of local culture and the need for engineers to be sensitive to the local needs of the community when working in developing countries.”
Finalist: Matt Jordan, Pell Frischmann
Matt Jordan is a dynamic and ambitious young engineer who, at the age of 34, has already proved himself to be a highly capable businessman.
He joined Pell Frischmann in 2005 as a principal engineer and, in less than five years, has grown the consultancy’s environmental business from just five staff to a team of 36 with a turnover of over £2M a year.
Jordan, who says he has “never been afraid of a challenge”, built up the business initially by setting up “centres of excellence” at the firm’s existing offices, initially targeting existing clients and then following up new contacts on the back of successful commissions.
He cites Richard Branson as an inspiration for the way he conducts business and manages staff.
“Jordan has great business acumen with huge potential as an entrepreneur within business.”
One thing that concerns Jordan is the trend for companies to “off-shore” (outsource) design work, which he thinks may result in reduced opportunities for young engineers. “This may be a good short-term fix but the legacy of off-shoring needs to be considered,” he says.
“If off-shoring is used purely for mundane, repetitive work, allowing UK graduates to concentrate on the more challenging aspects of design, then fantastic.
“However, we don’t want the UK consultancy industry to become void of graduates, employing only a few highly experienced professionals fronting large international design offices.”
According to the award judges, Jordan has “great business acumen”, with “huge potential as an entrepreneur within the business arena”.
The Young Consultant of the Year Award is sponsored by Hays