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Insights Love engineering, but not the grind? Here's what you're missing..............

Meet Jonathon, Senior Lighting Engineer, with Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. He shares what means the most to him in life and what keeps him at Atkins.

Photo of Rebecca smiling towards the camera

Jonathon, tell us a bit about you. What makes you tick?

I am incredibly inquisitive, and love to know how things work and why. I think this is why I love the world of construction and engineering so much. I like to travel and am keen to make up for the lost travel time during COVID and see as much of the world as I can.

I live in Nottingham with my wife and two children. I'm a keen guitar player, mainly playing in the worship band in my church, an avid Nottingham Forest supporter and a somewhat questionable golf enthusiast in recent years. I enjoy being outdoors in nature, whether in the garden or the countryside. I hope to make the most of the outdoors in 2023, even hoping to go and do some solo wild camping somewhere!

Congrats on celebrating your 10th anniversary with us. What keeps you inside Atkins?

Atkins was the obvious move from my role with a competitor, in 2012. Having worked my way up from a technician with little appreciation for the industry, I joined Atkins to further my career and own professional development and almost immediately, I began working on projects far more diverse than any I had previously encountered.

My Practice Manager here has been a huge influence on my career to date, encouraging me to embrace challenges, not only from a technical perspective within Atkins but also industry-facing, urging me to get involved with our technical institution (Institution of Lighting Professionals).

Over the last ten years, there have been times when I've been approached by others and asked to consider my future at Atkins. I can, hand on heart, say that I am happy here. The culture, opportunities, benefits and people make Atkins a very special organization to be part of. I, for one, am excited about the future here and where within Atkins that might take me.

What kind of projects are you working on?

I work on a wide variety of schemes (from concept to handover) all over the country, and occasionally get involved in overseas projects too. My focus is on the design of external lighting and associated electrical infrastructure exterior lighting applications in both the public and private sector.

Currently I am part of a number of varied project teams:

  • Brand new highway and lighting infrastructure in Scotland
  • Major highways schemes for National Highways all over the strategic road network
  • Involved in modelling of lighting apparatus and its likely effects on the environment, to inform the planning and application process for Sizewell C, which will be the UK’s newest Nuclear Power Station – taking up to 12 years to build. This makes it one of the country’s largest civil and electrical infrastructure projects. Once built, it will supply power to the equivalent of around 6 million homes. Going forward, I will be involved with the delivery of lighting solutions for the enabling works phase.
  • A public realm scheme in Cambridgeshire revitalizing a market town, using lighting (amongst other tools) to revive and encourage the night-time economy, where there is more focus on the decorative, and my artistic side can shine.
  • I have always enjoyed that no two projects are the same, and even the 'simple' projects can present complexities that require working through. Additionally, seeing one of your designs be built and commissioned into use is a buzz that doesn't get old.

    How are you engineering better?

    One of the elements of engineering that I have always enjoyed the most is being part of a team that comes together with a range of skills to solve problems – I enjoy the challenge. Currently, most of my design work involves upgrading out-of-date, substandard lighting infrastructure and working to help save Local Authority money, particularly on their energy spend. Using my expertize to help save money, reduce energy and modernize infrastructure paid for by the public purse gives me as much pride in my work as seeing a decorative public realm scheme come to life.

    Working in an electrical discipline, it is easy to see how energy usage can affect the planet and I work closely with ecologists on recognizing and mitigating the impact of artificial light on the environment; advising where, how and if, to provide light.

    Looking after the environment and the planet is a responsibility I (and we) take seriously at Atkins - sustainability is a key metric in all the projects we undertake. As Engineers building and shaping the modern world, it's critical we all play our part in reducing the carbon impact of our projects. Atkin's 'Engineering Net Zero campaign puts carbon reduction at the centre of project conversations, aiming to help government and private clients achieve their carbon reduction targets.

    Are the opportunities really that good inside Atkins?

    In the beginning, one of the things that attracted me to Atkins was the range of opportunities that were open to me to pursue as I saw fit. Early in my career, I was fortunate enough to go and visit the Global Technology Centre (GTC), our office in Bangalore. I remember at the time being amazed that I was off on a business trip to India. To this day, I look back on my time there favourably and hope to return at some point.

    I've been given the opportunity to progress my Professional Development outside of Atkins, forming close working relationships with industry colleagues and those within my Professional Institution. I was Chairman of the Midland region in 2018. Serving as Chair for a year was a tremendous honour, putting on CPD events and engaging with and representing the membership.

    As I progress through my career, I have been afforded many opportunities to further my skills in several different directions, both technically and pastorally. I am part of the pioneer cohort of learners enrolled in the Roads Academy's Aspiring Leaders program. This is a learning program hosted by National Highways, reaching into their supply chain to up-skill individuals for the industry's future.

    What do you enjoy most about Atkins' culture?

    It's like one big team/family. No matter the discipline, office or region, you class it as 'home,' and you're treated accordingly wherever you visit.

    When issues arise on projects as they inevitably do, there's never an approach to apportion blame. A concentrated team effort ensures that the outcome is the right solution. A lessons learnt workshop is held afterwards, again not to talk about blame, but to look at the issues and to learn from them, benefitting all parties and understanding efficiencies for next time while not making the same mistakes again.

    Photo of Rebecca smiling towards the camera

    How do you make the most of flexible working?

    I have two small children, and the ability to work flexibly around the school run, holidays etc., just makes life easier. I can structure work as needed, mixing up my week with a balance of home or the office without needing a regimented schedule. It's never mundane.

    It's the little things like being able to do the school run, nip out on errands, stay in for deliveries etc. That just takes away that little bit of stress. Being able to structure and run my day-to-day as I need to - not only from a work perspective, servicing the needs of clients and projects as necessary but from a personal perspective too, gives me a sense of autonomy - that my Line Manager has faith and trust in me. I think that adds to the enjoyment of working here; there is no sense of micromanagement.

    I'm quite active in my local church, with various hands-on roles. Having the flexibility to carry out tasks there in my working week (scheduled accordingly) benefits my wider community and me greatly. This flexibility allows me the time to think about and undertake important things in my life – it has a massively positive impact on my mental health and overall work/life balance.

    How does "different make a difference" inside Atkins?

    I suppose in a way, me and my career are proof of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) message at Atkins. My career as Senior Engineer is not via the traditional university and degree route. I may have started out in the industry as a technician with no relevant subject qualifications, however, before that, I was in Retail Management – a world away from engineering.

    I think it is key to show people that there is always ‘another way’, and that a traditional route of higher education and a degree is not the only way. Through college courses, extracurricular learning and many opportunities afforded me by Atkins, I am here now, mentoring, actively encouraging others in their careers and passing on nearly 20 years of experience. Many workplaces talk about ED&I but fail to live up to their words. Atkins is different. I have never seen such a diverse and inclusive environment that is promoted and practiced at all levels of the company and achieves an ED&I program that all adopt without feeling forced.

    Relationships are cultivated at all levels of the company, with members of the Senior Leadership Team visible and approachable to all staff. I believe such interaction allows for a more inclusive working environment and relationship with those around us.

    "Different makes a difference" is really that in Atkins. Our different experiences, knowledge, cultures, beliefs, ideas, etc., are treated with respect and celebrated in an inclusive environment.

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