Five Minutes with… Carys Hartigan

We caught up with assistant project manager Carys Hartigan who told us all about her job, being a champion for the industry and why Copenhagen is her kind of place. 

What does your role at Cappagh Browne involve?  

I assist on the delivery of a range of wastewater infrastructure projects, from design to on-site delivery. I work under the direction of the project manager, gaining experience with a view to deliver my own projects. For example, I’ve been working on a surface water issue and foul sewer collapse at a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). The project involves protected species, including badgers, as well as multiple people’s back gardens and so I’m helping to manage the environmental demands of the site, as well as provide the best service to our customers. 

What was your first ever job?  

I got a job washing hair at a hairdresser’s when I was 15. I was once abandoned by my supervisor when I was dying someone’s hair – thankfully it turned out alright, although I’m not sure it was the career path meant for me… 

How did you get involved in this industry?  

My dad ran a construction company, and so this led me to want to pursue civil engineering. I previously worked for Cappagh, where I assisted on a contract with Portsmouth Water. Working on that project opened up the sector for me, and I began to see a real opportunity to build a career for myself in water. I also came to Cappagh Browne with experience in civil engineering within a development infrastructure team, where I worked on projects such as highways and transport infrastructure. I enjoyed this type of work, but felt that I wanted to do something more hands-on, where I was visiting sites and seeing the direct impact of my work on local communities. A career at Cappagh Browne offered the hands-on experience I was looking for, in a sector I am truly passionate about. I’ve always lived by the coast and so I know first-hand the significant impact that water and wastewater engineering can have on local communities.  

What do you like most about your job?  

The variety. I really enjoy balancing multiple priorities to get the job done as quickly as possible and deliver the best result for our customers. When we assess a site, the situation is often much more complex than it first seems, as we deal with environmental concerns and customer queries – no two days are ever the same. 

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the water industry?  

Like anything, do your research first. At the end of the day, everyone needs water and so it should be a lifelong career! Another piece of advice I would give is to get as much training and experience as you can – there are so many different routes into a career in water. For example, I did a degree but many of my colleagues got into water through other routes. Your studies are important, but I’ve learnt that on-the-job learning is the most valuable asset to your career.  

Can you share an interesting fact about yourself?  

I lived in Cyprus for three years growing up. I lived on the RAF base there, as my mum and my stepdad were serving in the RAF.   

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?  

I enjoy going to the gym, running, and reading. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?  

Work hard and be nice to people, and above all, treat others how you want to be treated.  

What do you consider your biggest success so far?  

Achieving first-class honours in both my BEng and MSc civil engineering degrees. This year, I was also really proud to be awarded the Institute for Civil Engineering’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Ambassador of the Year 2023 for the South East, in recognition of all STEM outreach work I have completed, including: creating of a series of videos outlining engineering processes to seven to nine-year-olds, as well as hosting mock CV workshops, STEM fairs and open days. I’m passionate about showcasing the benefits and opportunities that can come from a career in STEM to the next generation of engineers, and I’ve found my outreach work to be incredibly rewarding. 

Where is your favourite place in the world?  

Copenhagen. I visited with my family when I was 18 and I remember everyone telling me that this was such a ‘me’ place. It’s very chilled and laidback – it’s definitely somewhere I could see myself living one day!