Kate Watson is one of our Associate Structures Directors, based out of our Twickenham Office. Joining Patrick Parsons in 2015, Kate is a rising star. Here she shares an insight into her career to date and thoughts on women in engineering.
How were you encouraged to get into engineering?
I always liked maths and science at school but wasn’t sure what to do with it until a careers adviser suggested engineering. I did a work experience placement and liked the pragmatism and tangible results of civil and structural engineering, so I opted to study civil engineering at university.
Can you give an overview of your role?
When telling people outside the industry what I do, I usually say ‘ I make buildings stand up’. Of course there is a lot more to it than that; we work closely and collaboratively with our clients, architects, MEP engineers and a variety of other construction industry professionals to deliver building solutions which can be realised. My role in Patrick Parsons is to manage a team of engineers and technicians to deliver the calculations and drawings required for these projects, ensuring that we are providing the client with everything they need.
Do you feel you have equal opportunities to men?
Early on in my career I was told that as a woman I would have to work harder to prove myself and to a degree I think that has been true. Unconscious biases are there, I do think that the industry is improving but I would like to see it improve further.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far?
Starting a family. The subject of child rearing and childcare is an issue that, although far from being exclusive to engineering, is nonetheless one to be addressed. A fair maternity package and flexible working should be offered to mothers, but almost equally importantly a fair paternity package and flexible working should be offered to fathers, and actively encouraged. I am lucky that my husband was able to use the shared parental leave scheme with his employer, so we could share time off rather than just my career being impacted. As an industry we should encourage this so the childcare onus is not solely on the woman, and also so that fathers can enjoy this time with their baby.
What are your career goals?
I would love to deliver more sustainably constructed social housing.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by all that the IStructE are doing to promote sustainable construction within our industry, encouraging us to use our roles to do what we can to combat the climate crisis. A real sea change in construction is needed, but it is great to see the IStructE at the forefront, pushing for this much needed change.
What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career option?
Engineering is a great choice, the construction industry is in flux, so the engineers of tomorrow will no doubt have a great opportunity to impact the direction of travel. And it is worth noting that an engineering degree does not limit your career choices solely to engineering industries, the degree is highly sought after in a number of sectors including finance, teaching, project management.
Do you have any advice to share with your fellow female engineers?
Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing great! We need to encourage each other and call out any inequalities, as our predecessors did, so that our future colleagues have an even better experience than us.
What is a common misconception that people have about careers in engineering?
That it is either mucky and dirty, or that it is so technical it involves sitting at a computer all week running calculations. While both of these ends of the spectrum do play a part in the industry, the typical engineer’s role is much more of a balancing act between solid technical understanding, pragmatic problem solving, and good communication.
What is your greatest career achievement to date?
I am proud to be an Associate Director and be part of the decision making team within our office. It is important for women starting out in the industry to see other women in senior positions and doing their job well.
What kind of impact would you like your work to make?
I guess I would like the opposite of death by 1,000 cuts – success by 1,000 small victories! Every day I want to do a good job on the projects I am working on; establish and maintain constructive working relationships with clients, industry professionals and colleagues alike; continue learning and improving throughout my career; be part of the shift striving towards a more sustainable industry; and try my best to be a positive influence on those around me.
What are your hopes for the future of engineering?
We really are at a critical point for our planet, there are slow shifts in the right direction but I have high hopes that the bright minds of tomorrow will really focus our efforts on engineering a sustainable future.