Wonder Wall Woman

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day we talked to Gemma Suess, our highly valued Planning Engineer on the Southsea Coastal Scheme about her career. Gemma works on the £100 million local authority-led flood defence project for the main contractor VSBW (VolkerStevin Boskalis Westminster). She is always happy to share her knowledge and passion for her work, even when her young son wakes up in the small hours of the morning!

We salute you, Gemma, and thank you for the pearls of wisdom for the next generation of female engineers. Keep up the great work.

Did you always want to enter this career path, and what made you choose to be a Civil Engineer?

No, I didn’t even know what a Civil Engineer was until I started my applications for university when I was 17. I knew I wanted to do something practical and I enjoyed maths, physics and geography. Civil Engineering seemed like a good combination of those interests.

What qualifications do you have so that you can do your job? 

I have a Civil Engineering MEng which is a four-year degree. I needed three A-levels and one AS level including A results in maths and physics to be accepted on this course. Whilst I’ve been working, I’ve also gained more construction related qualifications including Site Management, First Aid and Environmental Awareness. I currently work as a planner and have also taken courses to learn how to plan a construction project within the contractual requirements.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of engineering. It is rewarding to have a problem to overcome which has no straightforward solution and having to think outside the box to make it work. It’s great being able to bounce ideas around with colleagues, using everyone’s different experience and knowledge to find the best solution.

What would you say to young women considering a role in engineering?

Engineering is still male dominated, but this is changing now as more people are understanding that your gender doesn’t make a difference to your ability in this line of work. If you do choose engineering, there is a massive variety of roles you could do – don’t limit yourself to one sector or one job role. Gain experience in as many different roles as you can. I graduated nine years ago, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

What does it mean to you to work on the Southsea Coastal Scheme?

I like to work on projects that are key to the environment or vital for day-to-day life. Working on a coastal defence scheme such as this one is great because it is going to help protect the city from flooding, which is essential for the well-being of people living and working here. It’s also great to be involved in building a physical structure which you can come back to years in the future and say ‘I helped build that’.

Find out more about International Women in Engineering Day #INWED21

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