Role: Senior Design Co-ordinator
Career Area: Engineering Design
My role at SYSTRA
As a Senior Design Co-ordinator, I organise and support the timely detailed design delivery of structures produced by international and multi-disciplinary teams.
I organise meetings, design reviews and presentations, complete assurance documentation, review drawings, share models, identify clashes, share standard updates, design changes and make sure the design is ready for construction.
I am currently coordinating a section with 4 bridges, 1 railway embankment, 2 watercourses, 3 culverts, 2 flood storage areas, 2 ponds (with all associated drainage), rail systems, fencing, access roads, pedestrian and maintenance access, utilities, landscaping, and environmental designs!
My career journey
I undertook 2 weeks work experience in an engineering office whilst at school, then I joined the industry shortly after in a Trainee Civil Engineer role (which would now be known as an apprenticeship). During this time, I worked full time and had a day release to complete a BTEC National and HNC in Civil Engineering. Later I went on to study my BEng in Engineering at the Open University online alongside work.
At work I undertook 6-month rotation experiences in different engineering disciplines to learn about civil engineering and support detailed design and construction, specialising in railways. I worked for various companies as a Railway Civil Engineer, providing me with a wide range of experience in engineering and enabling me to take on my current role as a Senior Design Coordinator.
We asked Ruth…
When did you realise this was the career path for you?
I didn’t! I wanted to study medicine, but I found the exam format at A Level challenging. I wanted to do something meaningful, technical and practical, so I applied for the apprenticeship. Now I feel like the variety of experience was well suited to this role as I had worked with many disciplines and projects.
Have you got any words of wisdom for someone starting out in a similar role?
An apprenticeship is a great route. But, remember there are many options for getting into the industry, and for moving across to roles that are suited to your skills and personality. Keep learning and find an area that you enjoy.
How does SYSTRA stand out from the rest as a Great Place to Work?
I wasn’t sure what this role would be like, or if was suitable after being a Design Engineer, but I thoroughly enjoy the role and the time I spend with my colleagues. Everyone is very professional and collaborative – being at an international company means that you have a lot of opportunities for growth and diversity.
With such power in diversity, what unique perspective do you bring to the table?
I have a lot of experience with neurodiversity, which I believe makes me a better coordinator as I can understand and accommodate more aspects of various personalities (especially communication differences and diversity overall). I also have a wide range of engineering experience which means I can draw on that to help the team move forward. I also take part in the ED&I Committee and the Sustainability Committee, enabling me to support inclusive design and progressive technologies across engineering design.
Where is the place that has inspired you the most?
It’s not the places necessarily that inspire me (as much as I like structures and travel), but more the people working on them that do. It’s really rewarding to see people from different backgrounds come together to deliver large projects. I think my current project is the most inspiring. It’s such a complex project, yet we have so many hardworking, talented, and unique people who are a pleasure to work with.
What does true sustainability really mean to you?
Sustainability is the most important topic within engineering. I feel it should be included in the cost, time, and resource triangle, if not with equal importance to the structural calculations, risk management and drawings. As I have an autistic daughter, I want to ensure future generations have a world to live in that uses sustainable resources, good transport systems and provides as much equality as possible. I believe it starts with engineering, due to its substantial contribution to carbon across the world and resources.
What would a green future look like?
I think we need to use renewable energy sources; affordable, advanced, and reliable public transport systems; less consumerism; and have more societal collaboration. I think the more we work together to create these systems, the sooner we can achieve it, but we do need involvement from a wide variety of people to ensure it suits a large demographic. Engineering design should be driven from quality and long-term sustainability.
How do you look after your wellbeing outside of work?
Outside of work I mostly enjoy days out with my daughter, playing piano, swimming, learning languages, spending time with our cats and exploring new places. Being a mental health first aider, and having to balance being a parent-carer, I am mindful of maintaining connection, staying active and finding activities that release stress.
If you could spend your lunchbreak with someone you really admire, who would you choose?
It sounds cliché, but I truly get to do that every day at work with my colleagues who are full of unique ideas and experiences.
If you had to pick, which mode of transport would you use for the rest of your life?
You’d think I would choose rail, but I am not sure my perfect transport system has been fully invented yet! It would be a cross between automated vehicles and rail, where vehicles merge into the rail network creating a continuous transport system, creating a need only network where people don’t even need to own a car. It could be integrated with renewable energy sources in time, and you would be able to call an automated vehicle from your doorstep to travel anywhere! We just need to work a little bit longer on infrastructure and technology to get there.