Charlotte Wright is a Project Manager at Highways England. Here she shares her career journey so far with WeAreTheCity.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not until I was about 19, when I got my job in a local authority highways department. I then planned for the next stage. The years of study and graft to become a Chartered Engineer looked insurmountable to me, but breaking it down, milestone by milestone, made it seem more achievable and realistic.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
The hardest thing is having the motivation to study and to keep that enthusiasm going, especially after a long day at work. I overcame this by remembering the challenge my dad (also an engineer) had set me: to become more qualified than him. I’m almost there.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?
Understanding who you are is really important: what are you like as a person and how are you with people? Be human. You have to be considerate about others – think of the team, put them first.
How is your own company/organisation improving diversity and balance?
We have loads of women in major projects and that is really heartening – it feels like it’s balanced, but there is always more that can be done. We have an internal event “Leading Women” and we have advocates within the organisation keeping equality and diversity on the agenda.
We want Highways England to become a more diverse and inclusive company as a whole, delivering better business performance.
We are committed to developing our workforce to meet new challenges by encouraging greater diversity and inclusion, driving innovation and creating a work environment that ensure we can recruit the best talent that is available to the industry – ensuring our projects meet a wide range of needs and enabling us to build a more sustainable and innovative industry.
How do you manage your own boss?
I don’t see it as managing my boss; I think it’s more about communicating effectively, knowing what they’re working on and vice-versa. It’s a really collaborative relationship – it has to be.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
I’m leaving the house by 7.30am for my hour-long drive to the construction site office. I don’t have a typical time for leaving site, but when I do, I’m not always heading straight home: I could be off to my weekly German language class; or to go horse riding – having a half an hour ride is enough to switch off from everything and relax.
What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?
I’ve always found the best way to be recognised is to be good at what you do, and deliver on time: do what is expected of you. Put yourself forward for extra things, outside of your day job. I’ve done this recently, and it has meant I’m speaking to people day-to-day who I wouldn’t normally have engaged with – they also now know who I am and what I do.
How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?
I haven’t done anything formally, but have heard good things from colleagues who have had coaching or a mentor. It is definitely something I would consider doing.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?
I find networking great for building my confidence, it can be hard to start a conversation with someone you’ve never met but it gets easier with practice.
My three tips would be:
- Remember that the other person is probably as nervous as you;
- Ask about the person you are talking to and genuinely listen to their answer; and
- Keep practising. Like anything, it really does get easier with practice.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m currently writing my dissertation for my Masters in Transportation Planning and Engineering – this will mean I can sit my review to upgrade my registration from Incorporated Engineer to Chartered Engineer, my ultimate goal.