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Insights Rising Star nominees, Jessica and Lydia, discuss how Atkins supports career development

Congratulations to our Rising Stars Awards nominees, Jessica and Lydia. It’s an exciting accolade that focuses on the achievements of women, their talent pipeline and future leaders. Here's how they're developing exciting, rewarding careers in Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group:
image of Jessica smiling
Jessica, Junior Consultant Development Programme (JCDP) in Aerospace, Defence, Security and Technology (ADS&T)

Jessica: I joined Atkins in 2019. It was straight after completing my Geography degree, and I was keen to start my consulting and project management (PM) career. At the time of my Rising Stars nomination, I led three cyber workstreams within a Government Client. Day to day, I worked closely with the different workstream teams, ensuring effective delivery, helping to drive progress, motivate the team and remove blockers.
Image of Lydia smiling
Lydia, Account Area Lead, Submarine Account Team in ADS&T

Lydia: I’ve been with Atkins for four years. I joined as a Graduate Transport Planner, previously working for Oxfordshire County Council. Until recently I was a Framework Manager in our Transportation business. In May, I moved across to the Aerospace and Defence Market in ADS&T. I'll be responsible for growing and managing a portfolio of projects for new and existing clients.

Congratulations on your Rising Stars nomination! Tell us about the reasons for your submissions.

Jessica: Thank you, I was absolutely delighted to be nominated and shortlisted for the Rising Star Award. Many exceptional candidates were shortlisted, so I was amazed to have got this far. I was put forward by my line manager for the contribution I'd made internally on the graduate scheme and externally for a Government Client.

I worked closely with key stakeholders on my project to mobilize an enduring in-house capability to improve cybersecurity behaviours. This project had ministerial-level expectations, challenging client stakeholders, technical complexity and time pressure, which my team and I had to overcome to deliver on time. The project was a huge success, and I'm exceptionally proud to have played a pivotal part.

“While this work has been the most challenging part of my career so far, this role was, without a doubt, extremely rewarding!”
– Jessica

Aside from my passion for delivery, giving back is important to me. I co-lead a joint initiative between Atkins and the charity Save the Children, with 13 consultants on the JCDP volunteering to help and to conduct in-depth research. The outputs informed the charity's 2021 strategy when their funding was reduced as an impact of COVID-19. This opportunity enabled the graduates to gain client-facing experience while encouraging them to develop their consultancy skills while helping the charity.

Lydia: Thank you! I was nominated by a Client Director in the Local Transport Market Team. After a six-month secondment in the Market Team in 2019, I took on a Framework Management role for some of our local authority contracts. I've excelled at this challenging role and have some big aspirations for my career!

Alongside my day job, I volunteer as a regional STEM Ambassador and Enterprise Advisor for a school in Hampshire. In this role I provide the school support in developing their careers programme and work with students directly to encourage them to broaden their career horizons. I am passionate about helping to inspire the next generation to explore their full potential!

How has Atkins supported you to build the career you want?

Jessica: I love working with different people and providing governance and structure to projects. And I knew I wanted to be a project manager.

"At Atkins, I've been trusted to own my own projects and drive my own development."
– Jessica

I took on a deputy PM role in November 2019, developing my PM knowledge and skills with complex stakeholders and environments. In March 2020, I progressed as the PM to deliver a technical solution for a client, then moved on as a project lead, managing three workstreams. Atkins has given me opportunities to do various PM training courses to understand the technical side of the role. This includes the Association for Project Management's PM Qualification and internal planning courses.

"I say 'YES' to a lot of opportunities, especially those that challenge me!"
– Lydia

Lydia: So far, this has meant seeking secondments in different disciplines, going out of my comfort zone, and asking for advice from colleagues and mentors. As for my recent transfer to the Submarine Team, I'm excited about gaining even more experience while bringing expertise and diversity of thought from one area of our organization to another.

"I've been blown away by the support I've received at all levels, from line management to senior leaders."
– Lydia

Having a mentor has given me a lot of career guidance. It's also ensured that I carve out time to put the advice into action while being supported to take tangible steps to achieve my goals. Atkins' Women's Development Programme was also a brilliant course in encouraging and supporting me.

How does Atkins support your personal priorities?

Jessica: I've already mentioned how Atkins enables me to focus on my interests in the environment and giving back. So, I'll tell you how I'm supported to center on my passion for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I). I'm involved in ADS&T's Living Our Values (LOV) programme. It seeks to understand the feelings, points of view and perspectives of all our employees and ensure everyone feels like they have a platform to voice these.

I've recently taken on the role of engagement and sharing lead within the culture workstream. I really enjoy working with like-minded people that are passionate about this agenda.

"My personal aim going forwards is to ensure ED&I is at the core of my work."
– Jessica

Lydia: Atkins provide each employee with two volunteer days a year to use for a charitable organisation of their choice. I will continue to use mine this year to support and mentor students and schools through my roles as an STEM Ambassador and Enterprise Advisor. This year I am focusing on a school in Hampshire who need help developing their careers programme and their connections with local businesses.

My main personal priority for this year is to continue gaining qualifications towards becoming a Chartered Project Professional.

What does 2021 hold in store for you?

Jessica: I've recently moved away from roles in Cyber and started a new role within the Engineering Net Zero (ENZ) Programme as the PM. Since joining Atkins, I was keen to combine both my geography degree, passion for the environment and PM skills; this role does that. ENZ is a cutting-edge, transformational programme, bringing together diverse people and skills to drive the changes needed to achieve Net Zero Carbon. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and working with a fantastic team working towards long-term beneficial change for our planet.

Lydia: My work goal for 2021 is to build strong relationships with my new clients. I want to understand their key challenges and drivers, identifying opportunities to support them through the diverse skills, knowledge and expertise we have at Atkins. As part of this, I'll be setting priorities for the Account and creating business development opportunities to grow the Account.

How is Atkins uniquely breaking down gender barriers in your fields?

Lydia: Atkins supports a network of forums and champions raising awareness and campaigning for change. The Women's Development Programme is just one tangible initiative actively supporting women in their careers.

What was the best piece of advice a mentor at Atkins has ever given you?

"Do not let the noise to your left and right distract you from where you're going."

Lydia: "Learn how to say No!" I pride myself on taking on new challenges. However, I've definitely learnt the hard way that you can't do everything. I'm still working on this, but I'm definitely better at prioritizing opportunities/tasks that will lead to tangible benefits at a business or personal level.

What would you like to tell prospective female candidates reading this blog about a future career in Atkins?

Jessica: Have confidence in your abilities, something which I need to remind myself of from time to time. Know what you want, and don't be afraid to strive for it, but in doing so, always support those around you.

"I'm so impressed by Atkins' supportive culture and the progress it has made over the past few years to encourage diverse representation in the organization. Joining Atkins was the best career decision I've made to date!"
– Lydia

Want to work in an organization where you’ll be supported to thrive and lead? Find out more about women in Atkins.