Michelle McDowell MBE FREng is the Chair of Civil and Structural Engineering at BDP
“A career in engineering offers huge variety.”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
I design buildings, including schools, hospitals, offices and housing, by working alongside architects and other engineers. I provide the creative and technical expertise to ensure that the structure of the building is elegant, robust and sustainable, and that it delivers the architect's vision.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I wanted to apply my love of maths and physics to achieve tangible outcomes.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
A career in engineering offers huge variety: creative ideas, technical application, and office and site working environments. You meet many different people, from clients and operatives to technical experts and designers, but the most rewarding part is hearing the people who use the buildings say how they have improved their everyday life.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of?
Delivering the redevelopment of the Royal Albert Hall, which involved the excavation of a four-storey basement adjacent to the building and connected to it by a tunnel. Over 30 refurbishment projects inside the Royal Albert Hall transformed visitor and performer facilities.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?
I started work 32 years ago. There are more women starting a career in engineering and there are much better facilities for women on site. Some employers are providing better flexible working options.
How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?
We need more women at board level and a more flexible approach by employers. It would be great to see more male as well as female role models for women.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
There is no better career – it’s rewarding, challenging and creative, and offers variety and fantastic progression.