Ailie MacAdam is arguably one of the most successful women in engineering. Heading up some of the UK’s most ambitious engineering projects – including High Speed One, the St Pancras International refurbishment and Crossrail – Ailie’s career is an inspiration to women in STEM worldwide.
Now part of the senior management at British engineering and construction giant Bechtel, Ailie began her career at the company as a chemical engineering graduate in 1985. She has said that it was her father who inspired her to go into engineer training; he was also an engineer and Ailie used to enjoy making things in the shed with him at home. When she excelled in sciences at school, she knew engineering was the career for her.
Ailie said in an interview with The Telegraph that ‘iconic’ is an overused word, but that, in the case of the refurbishment of St Pancras International, it really does ring true. Ailie remarked that breathing another 150 years of life into the astonishing Victorian train station was an honour. The project also included creating the world’s largest champagne bar!
However, the project wasn’t all glamour – Ailie faced many challenges. Some parts of the metal work in the station were more corroded than expected and the team realised they had to rethink their restoration method. By working with a diverse team of experts – iron mongers, heritage designers, residents, tradesmen and CEOs – the team managed to devise a ingenious solution, turning their biggest challenge into their finest achievement.
Inspiring other women
On Ailie’s Crossrail project, over 30% of the team were female engineers. Ailie believes that visible role models in engineering are vital, and women have to engage with and challenge stereotypes. In her Telegraph interview, Ailie stated that women are well placed to excel in the field because of their tendency towards wanting to positively impact on people’s lives, create sustainable projects, help the environment and build infrastructure for the disadvantaged. That said, Ailie also added that mixed teams are always the most profitable!
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