21st June 2022

Meet the team: Kristen Taylor, Design Manager

We continue celebrating the work of our female engineers in support of International Women in Engineering Day on the 23rd June. Here Kristen Taylor shares more about her role as Design Manager working on northern based projects.

It’s International Women in Engineering Day on the 23rd June and throughout this week, we are showcasing some of our talented engineering women and the amazing career opportunities available within our exciting industry.

Here we catch up with Kristen Taylor who tells us more about her career journey, from joining Sir Robert McAlpine in 2003 as a Site Engineer to progressing to her current role as a Design Manager. Kristen is a working parent and is still as ambitious as ever, striving to strengthen her skills and experience in RIBA design and become chartered with the CIOB.


Can you tell us about your career journey, from studies to present role?

I started work experience during my A level studies with a geotechnical company, Allied Exploration & Geotechnics Ltd (AEG) in 1999. It became a full-time position once I finished my exams. I knew very little about civils and construction, but I knew I enjoyed working in the lab and wanted to further my education. AEG supported me on day release to college while I completed an ONC in Civil Engineering. It was at college that I learned of a wide range of professions available to me within the construction industry, and I quickly realised I wanted to be on site rather than in the lab.

I started with Sir Robert McAlpine in 2003 as a Site Engineer, and they supported me throughout the rest of my day release education, HNC, BSc Civil Engineering and MSc Engineering Project Management. It wasn’t easy, but I found that gaining site experience whilst studying was the best route for me.

During my time with Sir Robert McAlpine, I've progressed from Site Engineer to Section Engineer and Construction Manager. When I returned from maternity leave 5 years ago, I was asked if I would consider Design Management, and I accepted. I have since successfully managed the design process on two high rise office blocks, and I’m now working on a P22 framework PCSA in the early design stages.


Can you tell us more about your current role as Design Manager?

As Design Manager on my current project, my day to day involves attending stakeholder engagement sessions, organising surveys and investigations, running design workshops, reviewing design and collating evidence for early BREEAM credits. I am also familiarising myself with P22 HBNs (Health Building Notes) to ensure the design complies with these or derogate against them if required.

Once the project starts on site, I will be responsible for finalising RIBA 4 and 5 design through contractor design elements (Design & Build), and ensuring it is compliant and delivered on time. A lot of my time will be taken up reviewing drawings and holding design workshops.


What projects have you worked on during your time at Sir Robert McAlpine?

In 2003 my first site was the Paul O’Gorman building, a cancer research centre for Newcastle University, and after a short stint on some enabling works for the casino at The Gate (a previous SRM project in Newcastle), I returned to Newcastle University Medical School for various refurbishments in sections of the live building.

A couple of years later and I was on my first project that I was involved in prior to it starting on site, a school, Lord Lawson of Beamish, in Gateshead. I loved this project because it was my first experience of piling, setting out, and being able to see a building through from start to finish. It was also the project closest to home, 2 miles. I would walk most days during the summer months!

Since then, I’ve worked on a further two schools in Newcastle, Redcar Primary Care Hospital, Benicia HQ Ashington, Akzo Nobel Paint Manufacturing Facility (also in Ashington), SNF (Oil and Gas) Plant in Billingham, The Lumen, and The Spark, both high rise office blocks in central Newcastle.

I also worked for McAlpine Design Group for a year, working as a Design Engineer on Grey’s Quarter (Eldon Square), Nissan, and SNF. I had to dig out my uni notes to refresh myself on structural mechanics!

I enjoyed each and every one of these projects, but I enjoyed SNF because of the civils aspect and the myriad of underground services. During my time with MDG I was responsible for designing the routes for these services, which included HV ducts (with over 130 draw pits), drainage, drainage pits, culverts, hydrant, gas, and potable water to name just a few. It was good to be able return to site and manage the installation process of the services I had a hand in designing.


What is your first memory of wanting to be an engineer?

Probably when I got talking to a site engineer at college and he told me what his day to day was like. I started applying to construction companies not long after that.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being able to say, ‘I built that!’. I am very proud of all of the projects I have been involved in.

I also like how even after 20 years, I am still on a learning curve, and that there is still so much I am yet to experience.


How has mentorship helped your career journey?

It has enabled me to ask for help when I need it.

It has encouraged me to strive to become better at what I do, to recognise my weaknesses and try to improve on them.


Who do you take inspiration from?

People who are leaders! People who are not afraid of innovation and trying something new. And of course, fellow women in construction.


What are your career goals, i.e. where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I would like to continue as Design Manager, working up to a senior level, and increase my knowledge in the healthcare sector and early RIBA stages of design.

I have also been promising myself chartership with the CIOB soon too!


What advice would you give to those considering a career in engineering?

Absolutely go for it! It’s great fun, there’s lots to learn, and every day is different, you’ll never get bored!

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