Marking Women in Engineering Day 2023

Recently we marked International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), a day to celebrate the amazing work of women engineers across the globe. On the 10th anniversary of INWED, meet the women at Cappagh Browne who work every day to make this year’s theme, #MakeSafetySeen, a reality for the teams and communities we work with.

Cappagh Browne team member

Julie Anne Stokes, Head of Planned Works  
‘Everyone goes home safe’

A love of maths and sciences led Julie Anne to undertake a Civil Engineering degree, and onto a career that’s taken her from designing pile foundations in the Netherlands to consultancy and project management in the UK water and wastewater industry. She joined Cappagh Browne in 2019 following several years with Southern Water, where she was a senior project manager, and says that ‘no one day is like the other.’ 

As Head of Planned Works, Julie Anne’s job is to keep projects moving forwards by thinking strategically, solving problems and enabling teams to work effectively together on a job. While health and safety are a huge part of everyday life at Cappagh Browne, making sure that teams and customers are kept safe and well is central to Julie Anne’s role.

“Working out and about in the community means you’re working with lots of people, be it customers, operatives or clients,” she says. From a practical perspective, making safety seen means ensuring that we practice what we preach while out on site. Keeping up our own high standards helps to reduce physical risks, but it also and promotes a sense of camaraderie between teams delivering services for our customers. “They think, ‘you’re wearing orange, so you’re one of us.’”

Unlike when she first started in the industry, Julie Anne says its unusual now to be the only woman on a site. Shifting dynamics in childcare provision and more flexible working in the wake of Covid-19 has led to more opportunities for women in the field. Balancing work/life demands and managing teams to work collaboratively is important to Julie Anne to ensure not only the team’s physical but also their mental wellbeing.

“Your people are your main resource, so it’s about looking after the team to make sure everyone can do their job, so everyone goes home safe.”

Jess Duhigg, Trainee Civils Supervisor
‘The team is so supportive’

After a previous career in teaching and childcare, Jess ‘fell into the role’ of trainee civils supervisor when she was asked to stay on at Cappagh Browne having covered a temporary administration role within the company.

“I’m good with people, so my favourite part of the job is talking to customers to find out how they’re doing,” she says. Sometimes repair works can mean closing major roads and local hubs for a period, so Jess is constantly liaising with those affected to keep everyone informed and minimise disruption in the run-up to and during a job. In one case, this meant visiting 600 flats and speaking with every resident there.  

As well as being out in the community, Jess loves nothing more than getting on site, rolling up her sleeves and getting stuck in.

“I’ve got ridiculously long nails, but I will happily put some gloves on and pick up a shovel,” she says. As a woman new to the industry and often out in the field, having only been in the role for a year, she says, “the guys have really taken me under their wing and the team has been so supportive”.

While being out on site, health and safety are always at the forefront of Jess’ mind. Evaluating a job scope, wearing the right kit (whatever the weather), and following the right procedures are central to the civils supervisor role. Working dynamically is also important to keep ahead of risks and potential issues. As Jess says, this means doing risk assessments every day on a job, “because things change every day”.

In her spare time, Jess is ‘obsessed’ with the architecture of Brighton sewers. She pitches in with the cleaning of the huge brick wastewater systems that take place every six weeks, getting home at 3am from a night underneath the city while the rest of the world sleeps.

“It’s one of my favourite things,” she says, “I just love it!”