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Working lives

Claire Emberson is French and a project manager with Halliburton KBR. She is company's only female engineer to hold her recently elected qualification as ICE Fellow.

Route to the job After graduating in 1971 from the Ecole Polytechnique Feminine in Paris, specialising in aeronautical engineering. I joined consulting engineer Harris & Sutherland in London, and worked on bridge design, applying my skills to the study of cable stayed bridges. I had to learn English very quickly.

In 1974, I joined Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners, Malawi, working on bridge supervision and road design. This was followed by three years in Saudi Arabia where I was involved in supervision of construction of a railway terminal in Riyadh. After several years doing translation work and business development, I joined the water division of Halliburton KBR in 1989, working first on Thika Dam.

I became MICE in 1993 and soon after, was accepted as supervising engineer under the Reservoirs Act 1975, responsible for a number of earth dams in Surrey and Sussex.

From 1994 to early 2002, I was involved in rehabilitation of the water supply system in Freetown, Sierra Leone which, despite several interruptions due to the war, was completed successfully.

I am currently involved in the development of CEEQUAL, an environmental award for engineering projects, launching in 2003.

Expectations Civil engineering offers variety, challenges and the opportunity to travel abroad. I am now looking forward to working in the UK with client and contractors in a partnering environment, during implementation of flood alleviation schemes.

Reality All my projects have been challenging and gave me opportunities to develop, with support and encouragement of colleagues who at times pushed me well beyond my comfort zone.

The projects I have been involved with have been technically interesting and, in my mind, beneficial to both society and the environment. In what is essentially a male dominated profession, patience and technical competence have been important qualities.

Advice I am a group project manager in Halliburton KBR. In this role I get involved in training young graduates. My advice to them is:

believe in your own capabilities, think and work as a team, develop your communication skills and do not hesitate to challenge the established order. Many of them do this quite readily which keeps me on my toes!

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