From designing a Formula One’s team HQ, to creating a medical research facility that will help fight diseases, civil engineering can open the door to a fascinating career with a myriad of opportunities. One civil engineer who discovered this is Julie Wood, Director and Global Leader of Project Management at engineering consultancy Arup.

Julie started out as Engineering Technician and has worked her way up to Fellowship of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) – a benchmark for those practising at the top level within the profession. During that time she has led the delivery of the prize-winning headquarters for the Formula One team McLaren, and is currently leading a team of 120 on major infrastructure projects such as the Francis Crick Institute. When complete, this building will be the largest biomedical research facility in Europe. It will house 1,500 scientists working to develop new ways to fight diseases such as cancer.

Julie has also picked up many awards along the way, including runner-up in the Cosmopolitan Woman Achiever of the Year and finalist in this year’s Building magazine Woman of the Year award.

Here she explains why civil engineering was the career for her…


What piqued your interest in civil engineering?

I grew up on Teesside, where there are two remarkable bridges: The Transporter Bridge, which has a car deck that is hoisted up and across the river Tees. And Newport Bridge, with two lifting towers that have mechanisms to allow the bridge deck to be lifted up.

When I was a girl, I was in awe of these bridges and this certainly helped me to discover engineering!

How did you go about becoming one?

At that time the secondary school options for girls were more limited. I was encouraged down the medical route, which wasn’t what I wanted to do. I applied at 18 to become an Engineering Technician and worked in a local drawing office, while doing a day-release BTech. After successful completion, I was encouraged to pursue a full time degree.

What would you say to young women considering it?

Go for it! It’s a wonderful and diverse field. Being able to design and build for the benefit of society and have the opportunity to do this all over the world offers a myriad of opportunities throughout your whole career.

What might encourage more young women into civil engineering?

We need more high profile females in the public domain as role models.

The careers service also needs to be better educated about the vast opportunities for women in civil engineering.

Career highlights so far?   

Delivering the McLaren Headquarters - I truly ‘lived and breathed’ the project. It delivered an innovative approach to foundation design and construction, and it’s a beautiful building.