I am Gemma Teale, an Agent in the Aylesbury South Section for EKFB. I joined EKFB in July 2020, and am responsible for leading a small team to deliver works for the Princes Risborough to Aylesbury line.
I’ve always been the type of person that likes solving problems, so I chose to study Civil Engineering at the University of Southampton after school. My stepdad was a welder, and he would regularly come home and tell me all about the female engineer on site, and I realised at quite a young age that I wanted that to be me.
On graduating, there weren’t so many jobs in engineering and construction as there are now, so I ended up working in a local FE college, for local government and also in a local education and skills department. I still find the things I learned in this time really useful as it allowed me to get to know the pressures and priorities of the sorts of organisations that would become my future clients. After taking a year out to go travelling to South America, Australia and New Zealand, I came home without a job. I found a temp job with Ferrovial as a bid co-ordinator, and totally fell in love with it. It was a job that I had never heard of when I was studying, but I was completely taken in by the way you have to look at a project as a whole, and try and optimise every part of it to create the best proposal.
Working my way up from bid coordinator to bid project manager, I worked on bids including schools, roads, tunnels and bridges. Working on these high-profile bids made me realise that I really wanted to get out on site and be in the hub of activity, so I took a the decision to take a break from that role and spend some time as a site engineer on the Bravo Taxiway project at Heathrow, working on utilities, site clearance and surfacing.
During my five years at Heathrow, I developed and mobilised a few different projects including some demolition works, Kilo Apron Development and KAD substructure, which is a large basement construction at the heart of the airport that will house the T2 baggage system in the future. Working as a site engineer, and then later in other site roles taught me so much about the nuts and bolts of construction, but also how I want my sites to be run and what sort of manager I want to be.
After taking a short time out to have a baby, I returned to Heathrow to work on the Future T2 programme. Another high-profile project, I was really excited to be involved at the early stages of such a large and complex piece of work. The project ended up being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I found myself furloughed and looking for my next opportunity. Ferrovial really looked after me during that time, and it made a stressful situation feel a lot more manageable.
EKFB recruited me in July 2020 as an Agent to work on the Princes Risborough to Aylesbury (PRA) rail realignment and overbridge. I was clear with EKFB that I wanted to work in a delivery team, and was excited to work on HS2 as it offered me the opportunity to learn something new and work in an area of the construction industry that I hadn’t been in before. I’m also the demolition lead for the Aylesbury Area, which has its own challenges!
At the moment, we are still in the planning stages, but we will be building a section of new Network Rail line which will allow us to construct an overbridge for the HS2 line to pass under, and a road underpass. The works need to be done and dusted in eighteen months and is really programme critical for other areas of the project. The PRA line works excite me because it is a project within a project, and I enjoy managing work with multiple interfaces and constraints. It’s great to have the chance to be in at the early stage of works and hopefully actually see them complete!
As an Agent, I am the at the crossover between the project managers and the team on site. I am responsible for the work package as a whole and so once we are working will split my time between management and going to site and seeing the work take shape. I really enjoy the variety and complexity of my job, and collaborating with my team, the wider EKFB and our other stakeholders is something I value a lot.
Outside of EKFB, I undertake mentoring through the Social Mobility Foundation. I think it’s vital to attract people into the construction industry from more diverse backgrounds than we have traditionally. Infrastructure is there to serve society and the more those of us who are here to create it reflect that society the better the results will be. Embracing everyone’s differences and promoting accessibility in the industry is really important to me, and I enjoy encouraging the next generation of engineers.