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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Women in Construction Week: A Conversation with Abi Tetteh

Each March, Bechtel celebrates Women's History Month, a time dedicated to highlighting the contributions of women to history, culture, and society. During Women's History Month, we also celebrate Women in Construction Week, where we recognize and celebrate the role of women in the construction industry.

We sat down with Abi Tetteh, an engineering manager at Bechtel, to discuss why students should consider a career in the construction industry and some of her career milestones, including working on the Bridges to Prosperity project in Rwanda last year.

Listen to the podcast.


Interviewee: Abi Tetteh (AT)
Interviewer: Chloe Pantophlet (CP)

CP: Why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself? Tell me about your background and what you do at Bechtel.

AT: My name's Abi Tetteh, and I am currently a civil engineer based in London in the UK, and I completed my master’s in civil engineering back in 2019. It already feels like so long ago, and I've been working with Bechtel now for about 3 1/2 years, in both the aviation and rail sector in the UK.

And so, in terms of my current role right now, I'm currently working as an engineering manager on High Speed 2 Phase 2B, which is essentially a high-speed railway project in the UK from Crewe to Manchester.

CP: Awesome. And why did you decide to go into engineering? And why do you think today's students should consider an engineering career?

AT: That’s a good question. So, in terms of why I decided to go into engineering, and it might sound a bit cliche, but it's back to that root that I have always wanted to be able to create some tangible impact [and] actually make a difference to people's lives and actually see that difference.

And I think engineering, in terms of the built environment, is a really great way of doing that. You get to really see a tangible output as to how you've improved people's lives, and back in school, particularly secondary school or sixth form, engineering really appealed to me because I've always enjoyed sort of those STEM subjects such as your math, your sciences, and I liked problem solving.

But there was also another side to me that I was really creative, and I really liked art and design and music, and engineering was great because it allowed me to combine the best of both worlds in terms of the nitty gritty technical side but also with the creative side in terms of innovating and design and thinking outside the box. And that really, really appealed to me.

And ultimately, I think a lot of us, we want a career that will always challenge the way we think, put us outside our comfort zone, and inspire us, motivate us. And those are all reasons why I picked engineering and why I’ve still stayed in engineering up until now. Because it ticks all those boxes for me.

Another reason really is that it’s the diverse right opportunities that engineering brings, and you can work anywhere in the world on any kind of project in almost any type of role. It's so applicable, so transferable. You've got engineers—like civil engineers, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and you can work on such a diverse array of projects. And that really excites me.

I've worked in the past on airports and railway, but then you can build a motorway. You can work in mining and metals. It’s so broad. The opportunities are endless, and I find that really exciting. And I think that's why a lot of us pick up a career in engineering because no day is the same; every day is different. And that really keeps you, I guess, stimulated and motivated to carry on.

And, I guess lastly, one thing I just wanted to mention was, I think it's really important in terms of right now, there's so many unique challenges across the industry and the world that really need solving, particularly in terms of climate change and achieving net zero ambitions and how we can all work together to create a fair world for all and in order to come up with those solutions to these really challenging challenges out there. We now need to sort of shift our thinking and have some more diverse mindsets. [We need to have] people from all different backgrounds [with] fresh ideas [and] innovations. That's why it's so important that the future generation that is now in universities and schools join us in the industry to help solve these problems because we can't do it without that change and fresh ideas.

That's why I think you should really consider a career in engineering, and I can't say enough positives about it really.

CP: That's amazing. You seem really, really passionate about engineering, and I love that. What is your favorite part of your job or a favorite project you have worked on, and why?

AT: That's hard to choose. And if I had to pick out like a key favorite highlight and something that I've become really fond of in terms of memories is back in October last year I had an amazing opportunity to spend two weeks in a rural village based in Rwanda and with the local community. And I was out there with a team of some of the Bechtel people, and we constructed a 52-meter suspension bridge with local workers from the community, and it was honestly one of the most quite memorable, rewarding, meaningful—I can't think of enough adjectives to describe it—experiences to be part of, and it's something that I will never forget.

And I think what the takeaway for me really was that something as basic and essential as simple infrastructure such as a bridge to connect a local village in terms of kids and vulnerable people and adults to go to trade, education, healthcare, etc. They didn't even have that basic infrastructure.

And we often take that for granted in the western world.

And in many places across the world, they're lacking that basic essential infrastructure. So, having the opportunity to be part of the project, I really got to see firsthand how construction of such a simple piece of infrastructure being a bridge really helped transform the local villages and how much it really meant to them.

And not only did I get the amazing experience of working in a completely different culture climate at the in the other side of the world, but I also got to create meaningful bonds with both my Bechtel team and the local villages. And I got to help upskill those local villages to give them lifelong skills that they could apply to projects coming up and really help them create a living for themselves. And I guess I even learned a lot about myself out there in terms of new skills, new ways of thinking, and it really makes you appreciate and not take for granted what we actually have often in the western world. It's one of the memories and projects that I'll never forget, and I can't stop talking about.

CP: The next question is, what's an engineering accomplishment you're proud of and why?

A year or so ago, I was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Industry at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London. And this was basically an industry recognition for all of the work I had been doing sort of championing diversity and inclusion within both the engineering and construction sector. And across the years, particularly in Bechtel, I've been a really huge advocate for really working to increase the representation of both women and ethnic minority individuals within our industry and that that means breaking down those barriers, helping create sort of pathways and really encouraging that future diverse pipeline to our industry and help sort of problem solve and contribute to the solutions. Getting that award in the Institute of Civil Engineers, which is a really prestigious building and institute. Yeah, it meant a lot, and it was really nice to be recognized, and it's one that I'm very proud of.

CP: That's great. Congratulation! What excites you about the future of engineering?

AT: What excites me about the future is the unique challenges that we're going to have to tackle as an industry in order to combat things such as climate change achieving our net zero targets, etc., We're going to need to adapt really quickly as an industry to the change. What innovations are we going to use to provide really sustainable solutions to these challenges? And I think that's quite exciting because we're going to really need to shift our way of thinking and problem solving to be able to adapt to those challenges. But I'm also looking forward to seeing our industry as a whole sort of shift in terms of the representation, as I mentioned, and getting a really diverse input from people from all different backgrounds, whether that's all working together. And I think that'll be really nice to see how our industry breaks down these barriers and gets in tune with the times really.

So, there's a lot to look forward to, and I guess it's all opportunity in which we'll all be involved in, in some shape or form.

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