Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Ailie MacAdam

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Ailie MacAdam

Awards: Inspirational Leader Award 2008 - Adkins Inspire Awards


Ailie MacAdam joined Bechtel's graduate training scheme in 1985 after graduating as a Chemical Engineer from Bradford University.

In 2006, she became a STEMNET ambassador and, since April 2009, has been the Delivery Director Central Section of the Crossrail project. She leads the team that is responsible for the safe delivery of all aspects of the six new sub surface stations.

Between September 2003 and July 2008, Ailie led the Channel Tunnel Rail Link 'High Speed 1' team. She lead this team during the critical start of the commercial operaion phase. Her acheivements on High Speed 1 include the project management of on time delivery of the widely acclaimed St Pancras station renovation, an outstanding safety record and cost savings as a result of introducing Six Sigma processes.

Ailie’s unrelenting passion for her job and excellent project management skills were recognised by the Inspire 2008 award for Inspirational Leader in Engineering. Under her leadership St Pancras International station won the Major Project Award at the British Construction Industry Awards in 2007 and Ailie was part of the team which won the UK Excellence Award for Process Management from the prestigious British Quality Foundation. Her ongoing achievements and commitment has recently led to Ailie being made a senior vice president at Bechtel.

Prior to that, Ailie was running part of the Big Dig, a £250m roads infrastructure contract in Boston. “When I was working on the Big Dig I thought I would never be involved in anything like it again – then I got this.” Now she is Bechtel’s contracts manager on St Pancras International but this title understates her role, which is project managing the whole job.

“What makes me tick is turning a station that was condemned into a state-of-the-art facility that will be used for another 150 years,” she says. “Knowing that is very motivating, despite all the problems along the way. The trick is to break the job down into manageable sections, which is the key to managing any big project. The thing with project management is to identify problems early so you can mitigate them.”

About working as a female in Engineering, Ailie says, "When I studied maths, physics and chemistry it just never occurred to me that engineering was an odd subject for a woman to do. I think women in any industry have to deal with the challenges of working while having children, and things like that. I can honestly say that being a woman has never hampered me. If you’re any good it’s the opposite, you’re more likely to stand out.’

Being passionate about her work, MacAdam finds time to be an ambassador for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (Stemnet), an organisation that promotes science and technology to young people.

‘It’s really good. I’ve done a couple of career talks at schools because what I found is that people don’t understand what engineering is.’

‘I think it goes back to education. When people are making their career choices, are they making an informed choice? Often, I don’t think people are. I think the more diverse a team is, the better. Certainly in the construction industry. Women might attack a problem in a slightly different way or lead a team in a different way.

‘When I think about the graduates coming through now, there are probably more women among them. We’ve got some great engineers coming through. The industry is trying to get more women engineers; Network Rail are trying to recruit more women. There still aren’t a lot of women at the project manager level, but I can see that the industry is really working on that. I think the industry sees the benefits of diversity full stop, not just women.’

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