Celebrating women in engineering

Lisa Mansell is one of our chief engineers who’s responsible for finding new technologies to help us meet some big challenges – the race to carbon net zero and reducing our impact on the environment, to name a few. On International Women in Engineering Day, Lisa’s here to inspire the next generation of female engineers and to share how a team of engineers are making a difference to the future of the water industry.

“It’s so important to celebrate women in engineering as we still only make up a small percentage of the engineering workforce,” explained Lisa. “It’s crucial to show the great work that many female engineers are responsible for in our society and to showcase the work we do to inspire the younger generation. Many girls at school still don’t see a career for themselves in engineering due to it still being a heavily male dominated sector but it does make for a really rewarding career.”

Lisa’s path into engineering took an unusual route with a geography degree. “I studied water quality and biology but it was science-based rather than engineering. Following university I took a role as a process technician at United Utilities which gave me a real insight into the world of innovation in water and wastewater treatment and the difference we can make by ensuring we protect our environment in the North West and support the needs of our seven million customers,” she explained.

“United Utilities has always supported my career development and funded a number of educational opportunities including a Master’s Degree and Engineering for Scientists course which allowed me to make the transition across into engineering and since then my career has thrived.”

Lisa and her team have recently worked together to implement an innovative way to treat our wastewater. Nereda is a technology we use at our treatment works which allows us to treat wastewater in a sustainable and cost effective way. The move to Nereda has brought significant cost savings and reduced our reliance on chemicals to treat wastewater, improving our carbon footprint.

Lisa influenced key stakeholders to take on what was seen as a more risky solution and really promoted the wider benefits of use of the Nereda system, but she couldn’t do it alone.

“Our head of process delivery Joanne Rands was a huge supporter of the innovation work and her influence and problem solving skills were an invaluable support to the business at times of challenge.

“Key to our journey was also Elizabeth Fox, a process engineer who ran some of the pilot testing (and subsequently moved to a role with our construction delivery partner C2V+), and Emma Brabazon, senior process engineer, who tirelessly worked to ensure lessons learned on earlier projects were fed into the Blackburn and Westnewton schemes.

“It’s also fantastic to share the career progression opportunities in engineering too. Rebecca Shields, a graduate process engineer, came with enthusiasm to take on the new opportunity, a keenness to learn and has now moved into her full role as a process engineer bringing a wealth of knowledge not only of Nereda but on the wider complexities of implementing innovations at full scale.

“Let’s not forget Wanda Koczula, Cristina Cominelli and Saskia Moll from the technology supplier Royal HaskoningDHV who’ve all been fantastic on this journey too. Just like us, they work for a company that’s committed to embedding greater diversity into the workplace.

“Thanks to all their hard work, we’ve now implemented five Nereda installations, including the largest new build in Europe and the world’s first package plant in Cumbria.”

And Lisa’s advice for anyone wishing to follow in her engineering footsteps?

“Find what you are passionate about and believe in yourself! Often women don’t apply for roles if they don’t think they will get them or that they don’t tick all the boxes. It took a really great mentor for me to see what I could achieve and for me to stop holding myself back from opportunities.”

If you think a career in engineering could be for you, take a look at our jobs page.