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Insights How do we ensure your career evolution? Scale and variety.

Meet Jim, Principal Engineer in AtkinsRéalis' UK Power New Build team, a master of blending civil engineering, energy, and construction management skills. With over two decades of international experience in power generation, refinery, and nuclear projects, Jim exemplifies the innovative spirit of AtkinsRéalis. His journey from a graduate to a global expert in power plant construction and refinery upgrades showcases the depth and diversity of his expertise. Join us as we delve into Jim's insights on the power of engineering in shaping sustainable futures.


Photo of Jim smiling towards the camera

Jim, tell us about your career path to Principal Engineer?



My post-graduate experience started on the Channel Tunnel and finished with a London consultancy, where I cut my teeth on steel and concrete design to obtain my MICE Chartership. This became a passport to my first international assignment to South Korea, which gave me an appetite to start globetrotting.


I undertook worldwide assignments for the next few decades, building power stations and upgrading oil refineries. I started by managing the civil contractors on site, then the civil procurement, and finally, the civil design works.


On my last international project, I worked alongside Hong Kongers, Brits, Australians, and Americans to bring a US$650m state-of-the-art power plant from feasibility to site execution. This will be Hong Kong's most efficient power plant and feature the city's first hybrid sea-water cooling tower - an environmental first for Hong Kong.


International projects are highly rewarding, not only because their size and scale often exceed what can be found in the UK. They offer the opportunity to live, raise a family, visit exotic locations, and make friends, which will shape your personal values and, by extension, the rest of your life.


Typically, I spent anywhere from two to six years in each project location, learning as much about foreign cultures as I learned about their engineering practices and project management. I used each project location as a springboard to scoot around neighboring countries, which are not practically accessible when based in the UK.


In this respect, engineering is perhaps one of the more portable professions, enabling us to move around the world in ways that are not available to those whose practice is limited to the country or state where they are licensed.


"In many ways, my travels have brought me full circle, returning to a consulting role as a Principal Engineer with AtkinsRéalis and supporting a large project with insights gleaned from my travels." — Jim, Principal Engineer


How do you find working in our Power New Build team?



AtkinsRéalis is deeply engaged in almost every aspect of the nuclear power cycle, from designing new facilities through their operation, extension, and maintenance to decommissioning and waste disposal.


Power New Build focuses on the start of this cycle with clients who rank amongst the brightest and most capable in the industry – the ultimate in 'Intelligent Customers.' Of necessity, Health, Safety, and the Environment are at the forefront of everything we plan, design, and build to ensure that what this generation creates can be operated and eventually retired safely by tomorrow's generations without loss or injury to anyone or anything in the process.


"Working with the brightest minds in the business is a satisfying daily stretch, working together to find the best holistic solutions to complete a project that will set new standards for future projects." — Jim


What does the scope and variety of the projects we have mean for you and your career?



The project portfolio of AtkinsRéalis is wide and varied, not only geographically but in its intrinsic nature and scope. For years, prestigious clients have recognized us as a global name, a go-to solutions provider in many countries, business sectors, and specialist niches.


The sheer range of projects we undertake offers each team member the opportunity to learn, develop, and master an incredible variety of skills ranging from technical, science, and engineering through project management, planning, and logistics to commercial controls, legal, and business management.


AtkinsRéalis actively promotes membership in professional institutions, structures the necessary experience and learning to attain professional credentials, and provides coaching and mentoring to help people along their journey.


"The combined skills and experience at AtkinsRéalis exceed those of many competitors, who have out-sourced numerous essential specialisms we retain in-house." — Jim


Photo of Jim smiling towards the camera

What's the culture like in the Power New Build team?



The AtkinsRéalis ethos resembles a benign meritocracy. The more you put in, the more you get out. But it is set within a structure that gives all the support and guidance needed to achieve everything a person can do at a pace that suits their circumstances.


There's a gentle encouragement to consider higher benchmarks, reach further goals, do more, do better, and surprise ourselves. While support is readily available for anyone wanting to become a chartered member of their institution, to become a project management professional, etc., this is always tempered with the recognition that people move at different speeds and that maintaining a healthy work-life balance means we cannot all move at the same speed; important is that we find our pace and keep moving, forward.


The results speak for themselves. Each week, the internal bulletin boards show the long service of people who have been with the company for 10, 20, 30 years- and in some cases - since graduation.


"It would be no exaggeration to say that, in many senses, these colleagues have made AtkinsRéalis their second home and regard their colleagues as their second family!" — Jim Ryan


How does sustainability influence the decisions you make in your role?



An action is not sustainable if its impact is not recoverable. Therefore, sustainable policies limit our actions to those from which the impact(s) are recoverable. In recent years, we have become increasingly aware of human behaviors that are not sustainable, including the consumption of power and raw materials.


My role supports a project that is one part of a solution for responsible and sustainable energy use. Within the project, I ensure the quality required to ensure that each element is built correctly the first time, with minimal waste. Moreover, it will continue functioning throughout its entire design life without regular, costly, or time-consuming maintenance.


I work to minimize my carbon footprint, cycling when possible, maximizing my use of public transport, and using electric/hybrid vehicles when absolutely necessary. I encourage others to consider similar contributions to our collective effort to be sustainable, and I let them see me as an example to consider.


"I always select materials in my work to minimize the introduction of solvents and other harmful chemicals into the environment." - Jim


Photo of Jim smiling towards the camera

What does your future with AtkinsRéalis hold?



As a recent recruit to AtkinsRéalis, I am looking forward to better understanding the business, our clients, and projects while at the same time raising my profile with colleagues who do not know me.


I aim to be recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in the field of corrosion of reinforcement in concrete. It's a problem that costs the country billions of pounds in maintenance each year simply because it is usually overlooked during design, resulting in an expensive oversight to rectify when it is finally understood. It's also a problem for which AtkinsRéalis has all the necessary expertise to offer solutions to clients afflicted with such issues.


"I look forward to Power New Build consolidating its position as the UK's strongest partner for new nuclear power plants and ultimately guiding new nuclear builds in countries that lack the skills and expertise." —Jim


Our nuclear Power New Build team is hiring. Browse these fantastic live civil engineering roles and join us.