Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Rita Martin

Rita Martin

Rita MartinI am an Environmental Consultant for Arcadis UK who works on a variety of different contaminated land site investigations and environmental oversight projects involving decommissioning, demolition and remediation of large scale manufacturing plants. 

1. How long have you been in your current role and what do you like about it?
I have been working at Arcadis UK since April 2013. I started as a graduate consultant and progressed to an environmental consultant within 2 years of starting the role. I have been in my current role for 12 months. 
As an Environmental Consultant I get to work on a wide range of projects from small scale intrusive site investigations with our in-house and subcontracted drilling teams to help identify and delineate potential soil and groundwater contamination to conducting the environmental oversight of large scale manufacturing decommissioning and demolition projects. 
I really enjoy my role as an Environmental Consultant because of the variety of projects I have the opportunity to be involved with, the level of responsibility I am given to deliver site works successfully and because it is a job that is both office and site based giving me the chance to travel frequently!  

2. What did you study at school that led you to your current role?
At school I completed AS-Levels in Physical Education, English and Maths and A-Levels in Geography, Physics and Chemistry. When I started my AS-Levels I was quite unsure about what I wanted to do and whether or not I wanted to go to university so I kept my options open by completing subjects I enjoyed. 
After finishing my first year in Sixth Form I made the decision to go to university. I wanted to complete a course that got me outside the class room so I chose Geology with a year of study abroad. 
I completed an MSci (Master in Science) degree in Geology with a year in North America, completing a study abroad year at the University of California, Davis. The course at the University of Bristol gave me the opportunity to study a range of subjects including environmental science related courses, and also the chance to study abroad, living and studying out of my comfort zone in a country where I had no immediate friends or family.
Completing university I did not have a job to walk in to and I spent time applying for a range of jobs related to geology and environmental science before getting my opportunity to work at Arcadis. 

3. Do you travel within the UK or overseas much?

My main client is located across England and Wales so I travel across the country regularly to complete works at the different sites. I have not travelled overseas with the client I predominantly work with however the opportunities are available with other clients. Your career is your own, the opportunities are there, and if they aren’t and there is something you want to achieve, you can make it happen.

In the near future I hope to complete an internal work placement in North America to further develop my understanding of site closure and demolition and feed this back into the UK business line.


4. Have you experienced female stereotype profiling in a primarily male dominated industry and how have you overcome it? 

Like many engineering associated occupations environmental consultancy site work is primarily male dominated. From the utility clearance specialist to the waste removal drivers, the drilling crews and demolition contractors to our clients, working alongside other women on site can be rare. Although it is worth noting that our office teams are very diverse with every increasing numbers of strong, effective project managers and technical leads that have worked their way up from site consultants.  

Yes I have had a number of negative experiences and comments related directly to my gender. From a first aid trainer automatically assuming I was office based and that when I came up against a papercut I would now be sufficiently trained in how to deal with it (although I was surrounded by a number of our in-house drilling crews at the time who I work alongside frequently), being told by security guards that I didn’t look like the person that should be in charge of the job to battling for compliance from contractors who have been in the game longer than I have been alive...  
I have overcome these and other comments and similar situations with increased experience, improved self-confidence and the knowledge of my own competencies and project understanding. In addition to discussing the issues that arise on site due to my gender with others. I am fortunate enough to work within a supportive team structure who respond well to conflicts that may impact my wellbeing while completing works, but also the office is full of strong female role models leading the way in environmental consultancy and showing all of us what we can achieve if we keep pushing ourselves forward.

5. How do you look to progress and what do you want to achieve? 

I aim to progress from a consultant to a senior environmental consultant within the next 12 to 18 months, becoming a more effective leader and project manager in the roles I take on and increasing my responsibilities within projects.  
I enjoy setting goals as this is a way to keep myself motivated and I find I can positively visualise my progression within the company and see where I am going and what I need to develop to move forward. 
Last year my project team submitted an application on my behalf in the Best Young Brownfield Professional category at the Brownfield Briefing Awards 2015. Although I was unsuccessful in winning the category, I fully appreciate the recognition I received from the project team and business line in the early stages of my career and intend to further develop my career in the knowledge of the available internal and external recognition within the business sector. 

6. What advice or extra information do you wish you'd had through school and university?
I found it really scary and confusing through school and university trying to decide what I wanted to do as a career, it always felt as though everyone else around me had everything planned out and knew exactly where they were going. 
You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do; you should complete the subjects you enjoy because those are the ones you are going to try hardest at successfully completely. Opportunities will come up along the way so don’t miss out by saying no! You need to be flexible and open minded to opportunities that you may have initially rejected because it didn’t quite fit with the idea of how you thought things were going to look.


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