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International Women In Engineering Day 2024

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Zoë Gottlieb, engineering project manager at Veolia UK, provides her perspective on International Women in Engineering Day.

Name, age, job title, where do you live?

My name is Zoë, I am 28 years old working as an Engineering Project Manager and living in London.

How long have you been doing your current job and what does it involve on a day to day basis?

I have been in my current role since February 2023 where I undertake project management responsibilities on a hospital decarbonisation construction project. 

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One of the aspects I love most about my role is the variety in my day-to-day work. No day is the same. Some days, I focus on writing reports and preparing documentation, while other days I am on-site, gaining hands-on experience, conducting safety inspections and observing the project’s progress. My weeks typically start off by gathering the team together to liaise and manage the delivery of the project with the client, ensuring we are on track with timelines and deliverables, complying with health and safety regulations and meeting financial targets.

In addition, I manage the solar photovoltaic works and lead a team, directly overseeing project delivery.

What do you love about it?

Without a doubt, my favourite aspect of the role is the people I get to work alongside. Large-scale construction projects require extensive planning, communication and teamwork. I take pride in managing a team where everyone has the same goals and is passionate about finding sustainable solutions, contributing to ecological transformation and combating climate change. I also love mentoring other strong, influential women and demonstrating what is possible.

At Veolia, the significance of my work extends far beyond the construction site. Each project contributes to a sustainable, net-zero future and it is a privilege to be part of a company that is actively shaping a better world for generations to come. In my role, I’m encouraged to bring new innovative ideas to the table to find the best solutions for our clients, which is something I love.

The feeling of reward and accomplishment once a project is complete is fantastic. We work in a high-pressure, demanding industry where the ability to learn and adapt quickly is crucial. However, with the right people and a strong team around you, the results can be exceptional.

What are the challenges?

Working in construction and project management can be challenging as we rely on various parties such as subcontractors and in-house teams, to deliver our products and services. When issues arise, we must react swiftly to resolve them. For large-scale projects like hospitals, which are part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), adhering to timelines and budgets is crucial. Additionally, our projects often have higher upfront costs, so it is essential to demonstrate the return on investment, both in financial terms and carbon savings. 

Did you always want to be an engineer? Why? Did you have any role models? What inspired you?

From the age of 17, I knew I wanted to be an engineer. It all started during a summer trip to a country in the Middle East, where I witnessed incredible innovations through the use of solar panels and new technology. Seeing such creative solutions to critical problems ignited a passion in me for engineering that has never waned.  

Throughout my engineering journey, I found inspiration in the achievements of women like Dr. Frances Arnold, a chemical engineer and Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry. Her work in directed evolution has paved the way for sustainable solutions in various fields. Dr. Arnold’s perseverance and groundbreaking contributions have shown me that women can lead and innovate at the highest levels in engineering, reinforcing my determination to make a difference in my field.

While my path has been shaped by patience, grit and determination, I hope to serve as a role model for the next generation of women engineers, proving that with passion and resilience, we can achieve remarkable things.

What path did you take to being an engineer? Where did you study and what (and where) have been the stepping stones to get you where you are?

I was born and raised in Fulham, London and I moved to the United States with my family at the age of 15. The move was both exciting and daunting due to the different education system and environment. However, the flexibility of the courses in high school allowed me to explore my interests, something I am now very grateful for.

After high school, I studied environmental engineering and political science at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. I expanded my engineering skill set while also gaining knowledge in urban planning, construction management, and environmental policy. In my third year, I secured an internship at a construction company in Chicago. This experience sparked my interest in environmentally conscious construction and provided a clear vision for my future career path.

Upon graduating from university in 2018, I moved to Washington, DC to work as an engineer at a construction company. There, I was given the responsibility to manage tasks independently and learn on the job which allowed me to hone my problem-solving and project management skills, fueling a passion that kept me in the role for three years and provided valuable experience.

Despite my passion for the work, the lack of sustainable opportunities at the time led me to pursue a Masters of Environmental Policy and Regulation at the London School of Economics in 2021 to further equip myself with skills for future opportunities. Upon completing my Masters, I was on a mission to find a role where I could blend my engineering expertise with my newfound insights to make a real environmental impact. 

I was immediately drawn in by Veolia’s environmental credentials and how they wanted to make a positive impact with the work they do. Veolia’s Energy Construction Projects team is a relatively new team and there are so many decarbonisation projects in the pipeline. I look forward to growing within the industry and sharing my journey with my fellow team members.

Has it been challenging to be a woman in engineering? 

Many women have made significant contributions to engineering and efforts are underway to promote gender diversity, inclusivity and support systems for women in these fields which is why I love initiatives such as IWED. 

There are still lingering stereotypes and biases that portray engineering as a male-dominated field, which can discourage some women from considering or persisting in these careers. I think it is important to have role models and guidance and I really enjoy seeing young women come into the industry where I can teach and encourage them so I would recommend a mentor to anyone!

When did you join Veolia?

I joined Veolia in February 2023 and have not looked back since.

Why should women consider an engineering or construction career?

While the engineering and construction fields have historically been male-dominated, the world is moving forward and increasing diversity and inclusion in engineering and construction can lead to more innovative and effective solutions, benefiting society as a whole.

Engineering careers offer intellectually stimulating and challenging work opportunities.You have to apply problem-solving skills, creativity and analytical thinking to design and build innovative solutions that improve people’s lives and shape the world around us. 

I particularly enjoy the opportunities for innovation and working with a hands-on leadership approach, seeing tangible results with an end goal to work towards. The skills learnt in engineering and construction roles are valuable and transferable in any professional setting, meaning you really are future proofing your capabilities and growing on the job.

What benefits do days such as International Women in Engineering Day have?

Days such as International Women in Engineering Day have an amazing impact on my industry and create awareness for the fantastic work we do, as well as highlighting the opportunities moving forward. The world of work is vastly different to what it was 20 years ago and IWED gives us a real platform to highlight the positive changes that have been made through the efforts of strong, influential women with a desire to succeed. IWED is incredibly important to tackle stereotypes, pioneer change and break down barriers, opening minds to a career in engineering. 

Networking and mentorship opportunities are also created as these events often provide opportunities for women engineers to connect, network and share experiences. They can facilitate mentorship relationships, which can be valuable for career development and overcoming challenges faced by women in male-dominated fields. I encourage all women, just getting started or vastly experienced, to take a look at the roles available and get involved with open days, webinars and workshops to learn more about how engineering can be your next adventure.

Advice and top tips from Zoe:

  • Take the time to explore the wide array of engineering disciplines and career paths available. Engage in courses, internships and hands-on experiences to gain insights into different specialties. Engineering offers a multitude of opportunities, so don’t hesitate to delve into various fields to find the one that resonates most with you.
  • Often with engineering and construction, the learning extends beyond the classroom. Never hesitate to seek clarification or guidance by asking questions, even as you gain experience in your career.
  • Find mentors who can offer guidance, advice, and support as you navigate your career. A mentor can provide valuable insights, help you set goals and offer perspective from their own experiences in the industry.

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Staff Reporter

FMIndustry.com covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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  • Staff Reporter

    FMIndustry.com covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

    View all Articles

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