Dervilla Mitchell CBE FREng is a Director at Arup
“It’s challenging, interesting and is continually evolving so you can never be bored!”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
My job really is diverse and involves me carrying out a number of different roles beyond engineering. I sit on the Arup Group Board, which oversees our global operations, where I am specifically responsible for championing our ethics policy and procedures, as fair and honourable dealings are core to our business. Closer to home, I also sit on Arup’s UK Middle East and Africa Region Board and lead our aviation business for this region. I am a member of Arup’s University Council which is responsible for internal knowledge sharing and the professional development of our staff. Finally, I am a trained civil engineer and, alongside all my other corporate responsibilities, I still play a very active role on a number of projects and continue to provide advisory services to clients.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
My family was a big influence in my early years. My father was an architect and two of my uncles were engineers. After listening to them talk about their work, I thought I would enjoy a career in the construction industry. I really enjoyed physics at school and engineering seemed like a perfect combination of science and design.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Realising ideas and seeing them delivered is what excites me most about my job. It’s a long process and it often takes years of work, but I continue to get a buzz from meeting clients, listening to their issues and then working with the design team to find solutions to their problems.
I really enjoy working with architects and seeing the seeds of a project emerge from the creative process. There is a huge sense of achievement in seeing a project delivered, whether it’s a school, hospital or an airport, and knowing that there are people enjoying the environment that you helped to create.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
I take the most pride in the projects that I have worked on and in my children. I feel immensely lucky to have been able to be part of fantastic projects such as Portcullis House in Westminster and airport terminals at Heathrow, Dublin and Abu Dhabi, as well as being a mother to three children.
How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?
Providing equal opportunity is the starting point to achieving parity, but equal reward must follow. I look forward to a day when we are not talking about gender issues but focusing on the needs of families and providing a flexible and inclusive work environment which we can all enjoy and find fulfilling.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?
When I started in university I was one of four women in a class of 200, and I later found that I was the only woman in most meetings at work. This has completely changed today. There are an increasing number of women in the workplace and it is now not uncommon for men to be seeking flexible working arrangements so they take a fuller role in the raising of their children.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
It’s a great career choice. This is an exciting time for our profession, with the next decade promising to be full of opportunity. It’s challenging, interesting and is continually evolving so you can never be bored!
Engineering is so wonderfully diverse that you are bound to find a role that suits you and where you can make a contributing to solving the great challenges that face this planet, or produce designs which bring delight to our daily lives.