Paula McMahon

Paula McMahon -Inspiration from my Life in Engineering

I am the ICE North-East Chair and ICE Trustee. I am also the current holder of European WICE Awards Lifetime in Engineering. Tees Businesswomen Lifelong Inspirational, G4C North East Mentor of the year and others.

I was always good at math’s and solving problems, so I wanted to use it and engineering sounded way more interesting than accountancy. My mind was made up after going on a STEM residential course and the work experience, I did through my school.

After leaving school I was lucky to get an apprenticeship at my local council after spending a week of work experience there. I gained an ONC in Civil Engineering whilst working in many different departments. I was then supported to do a degree whilst still gaining experience.

After leaving the council I had lots of different jobs working all over the country and world. I have designed highway gantries in the UK, roads in Dubai and visited nuclear power stations being built in France. I have also helped with inspections on the Thames Barrier as well as hundreds of bridges, walls, and culverts. I now help look after aspiring engineers at Sir Robert McAlpine get qualified and l love it!

I have had lots of great achievements in life. The biggest qualification milestone was becoming a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). I was also delighted to be one of the first ICE Trustees to be voted in by the ICE Members.

There is no such thing as a typical day in my career, as every day is different, which I love.

An important initiative that I feel passionate about is creating Primary Voices to give young people a space to make themselves heard regarding climate change.

The best thing about being a female in my job is that I am pleased my experiences have been used to inspire others.

It is always a challenge to be different. Luckily, I have been joined by many great female engineers the longer I have been in the industry. However, I do feel more can always be done regarding gender imbalance in businesses.

Any setback I ever faced I overcame by focusing and solving one problem at a time. I have always been quite determined. I love what I do so that keeps me going.

The biggest lesson I have learnt along the way is always concentrate on staying positive and celebrate what you can do rather than dwell on what you can’t. The mantra I live by is ‘be kind.’

My main tips for any young female who is starting her career would be, first, to always have a Plan B, as Plan A doesn’t always work out. Secondly, be kind, to yourself and others, and also work hard and stay true to yourself.

I believe a mentoring can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations, in fact it helps everyone whether it be traditional or reverse. My advice for women who are aiming for leadership positions is to just go for it.

A key leadership lesson I have learned the hard way is that you can’t win them all. My key motivator is seeing other people succeed. I love it!

The best bit of advice I’ve ever been given is ‘Let it go! If you won’t care in five years’ time, then give it no more than 5 minutes thinking time right now.”

A woman who has impacted my life is my mum as she has always been supportive.

To my 16-year-old self I would say ‘stay positive and don’t let the bumps in the road spoil your journey.’

Feel free to connect to Paula on LinkedIn, check out her Engineering Together website, Primary Voices YouTube channel or read the WES Lottie Books she wroteDid you enjoy this blog?

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