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Member of the Month
Katharine Kelly CEng FIHE
- Wednesday May 20, 2020
Katharine is a principal engineer within the highways team of Jacob’s Glasgow office, alongside around 150 others. She is the resource manager for around 70 people, direct line manager for seven and is responsible for overseeing the technical traffic sign and road marking design on major highway schemes.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
At school I enjoyed maths and sciences but didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for a career. I was advised to study Civil Engineering as it was a good broad degree, which would give me lots of opportunities and options for careers once I graduated, which has definitely turned out to be the case.
Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical working day starts with dropping my two daughters off at primary school, before jumping on the bus into town. I’m lucky to have a really easy commute to the office and I tend to arrive just after 9am. I’m currently working with a design team in Calcutta so mornings will be spent on Skype meetings going over design issues and getting project updates. Then after lunch I’ll probably try and focus on report writing or answering emails. This week I am having goal setting meetings with my team so will sit down for one-to-ones between 4.30pm and 6pm.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
I’m the resourcing manager for around 70 members of the highways team and this role brings me the most challenges; keeping everyone busy (but not overloaded) while providing a variety of design work for graduates and those working towards professional review. Ensuring that people get the chance to do some on-the-job training can be really tricky, but very rewarding.
Tell us about a professional achievement
My claim to fame is that I designed the signs for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games – around 800 bright pink signs that directed athletes, officials and dignitaries between venues. I even managed to keep hold of one afterwards – it’s currently hanging in my kitchen.
Why did you join the IHE?
It was the IHE’s approach to getting chartered, which appealed to me, as did the opportunity to specialise in different highway design elements (traffic signs, in my case). I joined as a member in 2017 and immediately set about preparing my portfolio for professional review, for which I received lots of help and encouragement from the local branch.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I was carrying out a performance review for an apprentice and he started asking me about which professional body he should join and what would be his best route to getting qualifications. It was a bit of a lightning bolt moment for me; people had been nagging me to get chartered for years but it wasn’t until I was trying to help someone else on that journey that I realised it would be a huge advantage to be able to speak from experience. I signed up to the IHE that night and went along to a branch event a couple of weeks later.
In what ways has registration benefited your career?
I was promoted, given a pay rise and made a team leader. Being chartered has allowed me to work in more senior roles for clients who can demand professionally qualified employees. Becoming a team leader was a huge deal for me as I’ve always enjoyed helping others in their careers, and watching others grow in their roles is really rewarding.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Just bite the bullet and go for it. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Find yourself a mentor who can coach you through the process and prepare to spend a couple of months working late to gather evidence for your portfolio. If you don’t know where to start, pick the easy things like gathering CPD logs and updating your CV.
Given the current economic and environmental climate, what do you consider the biggest challenges facing the highways and transportation industry
I think we need to be looking at more innovative ways of working with our existing infrastructure to allow it to operate more flexibly and efficiently. We may not be able to build as many new roads as we have in the past, but the skills of highways and transportation professionals will be even more in demand to enhance the operation of our current networks, making them safer and increasing integration between different travel modes.