01 May 2020
Challenging engineering and construction to be better
Meet Louise, 2020 President's Awards Winner from the UK & Europe, and employee at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group. Since joining the Building Design Team in Bristol, she's thrived with us by following her interests. She was awarded Best Young Woman Engineer in the WICE Awards 2019. And selected by the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to be one of six President's Future Leaders for 2020.
A passionate advocate for employee well-being
Louise is a Mental Health First Aider in her local office, co-chairs the staff network ENABLE and is involved in the successful, Constructing Mindsets podcast. #InsideAtkins caught up with with this remarkable woman to find out more:
Why is Atkins a great place to be?
I've had a huge amount of support both on technical projects and the diversity and wellbeing initiatives that are close to my heart. And because it's a global organization, I also get to work on a wide variety of projects.
When did you get started on your podcast, and what's it all about?
We formed Constructing Mindsets after the WICE Awards in 2019. One of the judges, Lucy Howard, pulled a fellow WICE candidate and me together, as we're both interested in mental health issues. Joined by one of Lucy's colleagues, we then launched the podcast. We hope by talking openly to people from the industry about specific mental health illnesses, we can remove the stigma and help people realize they're not alone.
Speaking about mental health, what are your top tips for getting through the COVID-19 lockdown?
Routine makes a difference to me – being able to divide my time between work and "home," even though it's all at home. Doing home workouts and, or getting out for exercise, (depending on local government guidelines), can help create a divide between the working day and relaxing.
Unfortunately, one size doesn't fit all.
Not everyone will have the time to do that between home-schooling and caring for others. We discussed this on the most recent COVID-19 Constructing Mindsets podcast. Exercise, baking, gardening and DIY, were just a few of the ideas we talked about that can keep us busy, as well as using technology to stay connected to family and friends.
How has the organization adjusted to the new mode of working during the pandemic?
The Atkins IT teams have certainly done a great job in helping us all transition from office to home working. In reality, my job hasn't changed much – these days I phone people, rather than seeing them face to face. I can still perform my usual design work, except now, my desk is in my spare room rather than the office.
Why are you passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality?
I was fortunate to never came across any barriers to getting into the industry. So I always wondered why engineering involved so few women. I spent some time looking into it, and there definitely are obstacles. Not just for women, but also BAME candidates and those with disabilities.
Diversity fosters innovation and improves the bottom line.
So, based on this statement, I don't understand why, as an industry, we wouldn't be passionate about wanting to employ many more different and talented people. When we remove barriers and promote inclusive workplaces and practices, we can increase the diversity and be more successful.
What is ENABLE, and how are you involved?
ENABLE supports employees who have disabilities or care for those with disabilities outside of work. We aim to raise awareness of the simple, reasonable adjustments we can all make to help someone with a disability thrive in the workplace. It's about removing the barriers which may prevent anyone from bringing their full selves to work.
Improving our work environment
As a co-chair, I help promote disability awareness within the company and openly discuss the challenges our colleagues within the disabled community may have. We've worked with our estates' team to improve our work environment, and helped source assistive IT hardware and software. We were also involved in the organization’s commitment to becoming Disability Confident, ensuring our recruitment processes are also disability-friendly.
What kind of support is ENABLE providing for staff with higher needs while the office is closed?
ENABLE is fairly quiet compared to some of our other networks, as disability is personal. So, we're focusing on keeping in touch with our community through internal Yammer discussions and by reaching out to offer mental health support and just a chat where people need it. I hope the whole ENABLE community feels they can reach out to me for a catch-up or discussion whenever they need to. Physical distancing and lockdown are difficult for everyone, and we can all support each other through it.
What one amazing thing has Atkins helped you discover about yourself?
I would say I arrived at Atkins with much lower confidence. I believed that someone senior would always have the right answer, and I should learn from them. After being here for three and a half years, I've learnt that everyone can learn from everyone. I certainly learn things from apprentices, which I didn't know before. This enables us to look at problems in different ways. My confidence has grown, and I'm now able to challenge or question senior staff about why we tackle certain technical issues in certain ways. And when it comes to diversity, inclusion and mental health, I'm happy to talk about taboo subjects widely and openly with the hopes of removing the stigma.