On International Women’s Day, meet Graduate Civil Engineer, Elena Martin Lopez

Elena is a Graduate Civil Engineer in our Birmingham office. She joined Woods Hardwick in September 2021, and is already supporting many clients.

She shares her thoughts on how we can encourage more women into the sector as well as her career journey to date  -jumping (or flying!) from aerospace manufacturing to civil engineering. And we also find out how she has encouraged a love of all things aquatic in the Birmingham office!

On International Women’s Day, Elena explains why it is so important to encourage more women into engineering:

Civil engineering is a fantastic sector, with lots of opportunities for individuals and to deliver for society. But it needs to be openly and visibly accessible to everyone so that women feel more encouraged into the industry.


Engineering has been a sector historically dominated by men. I was surprised to be the ONLY woman out of 180 students in my school year to choose the engineering module. While the sector remains very male dominated, more women are being encouraged to pursue a career in engineering.  It’s our collective responsibility to keep closing the gap.

How did you get into civil engineering?

I went to college and university in Tenerife, Spain. During my Bachelors Degree I undertook an internship at an engineering company focused in hydrology, where I gained experience and learned the working dynamics. Through the ERASMUS program, I was offered the opportunity to do an international university exchange at the University of Florence in Italy. It was a great experience and my first time living in a different country.

After finishing my bachelor degree, I came to England looking for engineering opportunities to start my professional career. Over the last four years I have been working in the Manufacturing sector, mainly focused in aerospace components as a Quality Engineer, but my passion has always been Civil Engineering so I decided to follow this dream.

I enrolled in Nottingham Trent University where I am currently studying for a Master’s in Structural Engineering with Materials. This is a part-time course and this has enabled me to take up the role as a Civil Engineer graduate at Woods Hardwick.

What made you choose Woods Hardwick?

The work that Woods Hardwick does is exactly the type of civil engineering projects I am keen to do. When I saw the graduate position, it was perfect timing for me to start to develop and apply the knowledge I am learning in my Master’s. They also allow me to work flexibly in order to accommodate my studies, which is fantastic.

Why did you want to become an engineer?

I always had predisposition for science and design growing up, but I made the decision to become a civil engineer in college after one of my teachers, a former civil engineer, inspired me to follow this path. It is a varied role that can be in the office one day and out on site the next. No day is ever the same. And to have the opportunity to design structures that helps local communities is very rewarding.

How did you settle in to Woods Hardwick?

Joining Woods Hardwick has been a wonderful experience. The office is really friendly and  it means a lot that the team always have time to train and explain new tasks to me. Plus they allowed me to bring a massive fish tank to the office!

Hold that thought – tell us more about the fish tank!

The fish tank belonged to the CEO of my previous company. When I decided to leave the company to join Woods Hardwick, I got the surprising offer to take the fish tank with me. I initially thought I had better take it to the flat I am renting in Birmingham as it seemed like a weird request to ask if the business would like it in the office on my first day! However, the Head of the Birmingham office, Matt Ford, loved the idea, and once he checked Fort Dunlop would allow it, I brought the tank in! We have around 33 Mbuna Cichlids fish at the moment – they are all different colours and they breed from time to time and so we currently have a few babies in the tank as well. It’s a lovely feature and peaceful to look at!

Back to work!….What type of projects you get involved in?

I am primarily working on residential development projects. We pick up sites as concepts and develop them into more detailed designs. This gives me the opportunity to be part of a range of different infrastructure designs, from roads, to drainage and sewerage systems.

What would you recommend to any budding engineers? How do they make themselves stand out?

  • Be honest 
  • Being accountable
  • Focus on the detail and deliver quality over quantity
  • Do continuous research in your field (things are always evolving) 
  • Think outside of the box when you are facing new challenges
  • Join the professional body that is relevant to your career path
  • Learn from your work colleges and share your knowledge with them

Ultimately you should do what you love. It doesn’t matter if it is difficult or what people think about your career choice. If that is your passion, then go for it. The key for success is to be persistent.

We are currently recruiting for a range of Civil Infrastructure Engineering roles in our Birmingham and Bedford offices.


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