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Insights REAL civil engineering life in our Networks & Drainage team

Meet Paul, a talented civil engineer in water management whose career journey is as inspiring as impressive. Starting at AtkinsRéalis, fresh out of university in 1997, Paul quickly distinguished himself in the complex world of sewerage schemes—from designing pipelines to overseeing the construction of new wastewater treatment works on the Isle of Wight. His dedication to improving water management systems led him through rigorous training and on-site experience, eventually earning him the status of chartered engineer, member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and membership in the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management.

Photo of Paul smiling towards the camera

Hello Paul, what do you do at AtkinsRéalis?

I am the practice manager for a team of 55 clean water and urban drainage network modelers and drainage engineers. Together, we ensure that water systems and cities' rainwater management systems are designed well and run smoothly.

What do you enjoy most about this role?

Actively developing my team and wider AtkinsRéalis colleagues. This can vary from being an ICE supervising civil engineer overseeing our ICE graduate training scheme to on-the-job training ensuring individuals gain a variety of experience and resilience in their skills.

"I strive to make everyone feel valued, respected, and appreciated."
—Paul, Practice Manager, Network Drainage Solutions

What makes you proud about what you do?

I take immense pride and pleasure in seeing my staff develop and achieve milestones in their careers, from our early careers staff gaining confidence in their presentation skills to promotions, client praise, and industry recognition. I'm always keen to help others learn formally through my supervising civil engineer role or by providing encouraging advice. But I also get so much from reverse mentoring—our young professionals come with so much knowledge and willingness to challenge how we do things differently, using digital transformation to add technical value and more intellectual interest into the day-to-day project work.

"The desire to always be learning, enthusiastic, and motivated enriches me. There's always something to learn, a new situation, and a new challenge."
—Paul, Practice Manager, Network Drainage Solutions

What sets AtkinsRéalis apart for professionals in our industry?

How long many of us have been with the organization. For example, I was one of the four graduates who entered the old water division in 1997, and three of us are still with the team. Last year, we celebrated the retirement of a team member who had achieved 43 years of service. This demonstrates the organization's ability to provide continuing individual development throughout our careers, the breadth of technical work, and the high-caliber clients we serve through project delivery.

What kind of working culture have you and your London, Peterborough, and Epsom team achieved?

We are a supportive friendship group, striving to achieve our best while helping each other. For example, I recently had to take some time off at short notice due to some health issues with my daughter. The team rallies around in these situations, sometimes making personal sacrifices, because we stand and fall as one and know that the same response would occur if the boot was on the other foot. By having a truly psychologically safe environment, we share our challenges at home and work, from mental health to miscarriage, knowing that this makes us all stronger.

"I'm proud of and love working with such a supportive group of individuals within Network and Drainage Solutions and recognizing everyone for their contributions."
—Paul, Practice Manager, Network Drainage Solutions

What has made you so keen on promoting flexible working for your team?

In 2006, my working patterns changed. I became entirely home-based and part-time, allowing me to take the lead with my children while my wife remained full-time at work. Being a senior engineer and working wholly from home was almost unheard of at the time! This allowed me to maintain my professional career development—I was promoted to Associate during this time—while spending rewarding and informative years as our brood increased to three.

How does a senior engineer pull off working from home?

The flexibility the company offered me, and vice versa, allowed me to support opportunities at times of peak demand while keeping the work-life balance during holiday periods. This included secondment roles to Anglian Water and bid Manager roles for some of our major Water Industry frameworks while also taking the lead for the wastewater team based in Epsom. I will always be grateful to my manager for taking the time to recognize the value I could bring and for allowing me to break the stereotype. This is a legacy I hope to continue fulfilling.

How do you #MakeItBrilliant in your role?

By always being available. Days can be full of Teams calls and meetings. However, I always try to be available when any team member needs me, whether work-related or personal. On those rare occasions when my team members have wanted to leave the business, I get immense satisfaction when we can find them alternative roles in AtkinsRéalis that enable them to further their careers in a way that suits them. We can offer such variety and experiences within our organization. Everyone has a role and opportunity, whatever their particular skill or interest.

"I also desire to challenge our why and how. I'm always happy to step back and recognize the team's new ideas and approaches."
—Paul, Practice Manager, Network Drainage Solutions

Why is it a good time to join the Network and Drainage Solutions team?

The variety of work you can get involved in. And, with our Network and Drainage Solutions teams expanding, we have many significant projects coming up. In the last couple of years, I have worked on fantastic projects. The Jabal Al Akbar master plan in Oman included site visits and presentations in the country. I've led a £4m program alongside 200 of my multi-discipline colleagues, supporting the development of Thames Water's first long-term Drainage and Wastewater Management Plan. We developed solutions and alternative delivery plans totaling over £31bn in construction costs. I've also led teams serving our immediate industry and customer needs to improve the performance of storm overflows.

We are a great, supportive community with a true desire to work together to achieve great outcomes for our clients and our people. Our team's culture builds bonds far stronger than purely being work colleagues.

Find a role with us today in Network and Drainage Solutions.