Women in Engineering

Ailie MacAdam: General Manager for Infrastructure – Europe and Africa

What does your job involve?

I manage engineering company Bechtel’s infrastructure business in Europe and Africa. A big part of that business is transport in all its forms including railways, aviation, roads, bridges, and tunnels. My team identifies opportunities for new work, we put together a proposal and then we bid for it. Once we’ve won a project, I have to put the right team on the job that will deliver exactly what the customer needs. I’m lucky enough to visit our existing and potential new projects in many different countries and see the fantastic work our teams are doing.

What other roles have you had in transport?

I’ve spent two-thirds of my career in transport, firstly project managing the Central Artery highway in Boston, US, then I worked on London’s St Pancras Station refurbishment and extension as a project manager, as part of the programme to build the UK’s High Speed 1 railway. After that I was project director for the overall programme, responsible for final completion. I then moved to Crossrail, working in a series of roles leading up to becoming the central section delivery director, responsible for the delivery of £7.5bn worth of infrastructure in central London. And prior to my present role, I led Bechtel’s rail business.

Crossrail, London

How did you get into the transport industry?

I started out as a chemical engineer and spent a decade working in the oil and gas industry. Then my husband’s work led us to Boston, US, where my company, Bechtel, happened to be building the Central Artery highway. It was my first transport job. I really enjoyed it and have worked in the sector ever since.

What are the career benefits of working for a global company like Bechtel?

I’ve worked with Bechtel my entire career, starting on its graduate training programme after I finished university. It gave me a broad base of competencies and the opportunity to undergo extensive project management training on the job. It was this training that enabled me to transition from working in the oil and gas sector to the transport industry. 

How do you balance family life with your career?

I’ve a wonderful familya husband and two childrenand it’s absolutely possible to have both a family and career. I’m strict with myself about how I manage my time. I work very hard but my priority irrespective of workload is my family. Having that anchored in my mind helps me to make tough decisions when I need to prioritise.

What do you like about working in the transport industry?

I love building tangible things that make a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. Transport is a fundamental part of successful and vibrant communities and being able to contribute to that is a fantastic way of earning a living. 

What are you most proud of?

I’ve worked on such a variety of jobs and on each one I’ve thought ‘It doesn’t get any better than this’, but then I’ve moved onto the next one and it’s been even better than the last one! I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.