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GE jobfile

Name: David French


Occupation: head of geotechnical engineering division, WS Atkins

Route to the job: After completing a degree in civil engineering at Manchester University in 1979, I joined Binnie & Partners in London where I trained under agreement and became chartered in 1983.That year I started studying at Imperial College and obtained an MSc in soil mechanics in 1984.Later I did PhD research under Professor John Burland.In 1989 I worked for Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick for a brief spell before joining WS Atkins in 1991 as senior geotechnical engineer and subsequently chief geotechnical engineer.In 1997 I left for a year to work for Golder Associates in Perth, Australia.Since returning to WS Atkins I have been promoted to head of the geotechnical division and I am responsible for about 50 staff.

Typical day: I am still very much involved in technical issues as project manager and project director on several jobs.We have an extremely varied project portfolio, ranging from road, rail and water infrastructure work through to industry research projects such as a numerical modelling study into the geotechnics of decommissioning North Sea gravity platforms.Roughly half our work is for other WS Atkins divisions and half for our own clients.As head of department I am involved in a lot of management and financial issues.Work needs to be won to keep my staff busy and of course we need to be profitable.We have several offices around the country and good communications and workload co-ordination are important.

Highs and lows: I take the greatest satisfaction from the enthusiasm and support I get from others in the team and seeing our younger staff develop and mature in their careers.Our greatest asset is our staff and we pride ourselves on being team players.The worst part of the job is having to cope with downturns in the economic cycle and various procurement upheavals in the industry.

Ambitions: WS Atkins is growing very rapidly and many opportunities are opening up.I would like to continue to be a part of this growth by building up the geotechnical team further and moving into new business areas.

Advice: Apart from a sound technical knowledge, what I look for most for in prospective employees is enthusiasm, attention to detail and a willingness to muck in with the team.Willingness to accept change and to be part of it will become ever more important in future.

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