Creating a better world for future generations


As the newly appointed UK head of corporate social responsibility at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Claire Gott is determined to help meet the challenges of tomorrow, including the skills gap and securing the future of UK engineering. 

With this week seeing the occasion of International Women’s Day as well as National Apprenticeship Week, Infrastructure Intelligence’s Natasha Levanti asked Claire Gott about her inspirations, common misunderstandings about the profession, how industry can inspire the next generation, as well as her advice for those thinking about a career in engineering.

As a child, what inspired you to pursue engineering?

My ‘eureka’ moment  came on a school trip to Tanzania when I was 16, where I spent a week in an orphanage helping to rebuild furniture. I realised I wanted to do something hands-on to make a difference to the quality of people’s lives. That’s what led me to a degree in civil engineering and architecture. Co-founding Cameroon Catalyst was the next logical step for me as I’m passionate about applying engineering skills to make small tangible steps through community led infrastructure development projects in order to end the vicious cycle of poverty in rural Cameroon.

What do you feel are common misunderstandings about working in the natural and built environment?

When it comes to public perception, civil engineering is still seen as a ‘muddy boys’ job but that’s simply not the case. I, along with many other women in engineering are living proof! In my new role as UK head of corporate social responsibility at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, I hope to raise awareness about the breath of opportunities within our industry, both on site and as part of a diverse design team.

What do you feel has been your best accomplishment thus far in your career?

Receiving an MBE for services to civil engineering and charity work in Cameroon has certainly been a highlight! 

I’m also very proud to have been part of the London Bridge Station redevelopment team. The approach to collaboration across the entire supply chain has led to pioneering technical innovations - such as the quadripartite arch solution - that will transform the station into a transportation hub of the 21st century whilst also respecting and complimenting the retained historical elements. I’ve really enjoyed working on site and watching the station help regenerate the area whilst juggling 54 million passengers each year on their commute. Some have said it’s like doing open heart surgery whilst jogging at the same time!

What do you feel are key actions those in the industry can take to inspire youth?

I strongly believe that it is our responsibility, as practicing engineers, to engage with the younger generation and equip them with the skills to successfully meet the challenges of tomorrow. As the chair of the ICE education and inspiration committee, I hope to initiate a more collaborative approach across the industry to help inspire our future engineers and grow our talent pool.

Whilst institutions and organisations all have great ambitions to drive change, the approach is somewhat fragmented and I believe that the key to success is creating an industry of many voices with one message. For example, at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff we’ve pledged to use the WISE 10 steps to help shape our diversity action plan for current and future employees.

What would you say to young people contemplating a career in engineering?

It’s a really exciting time to be part of our industry - the current economic climate is picking up, companies are taking on more graduates, investment in large infrastructure projects is on the up and there is a plethora of fantastic international opportunities. For me, being an engineer has allowed me to work on projects that will transform people’s lives, whether that’s a station redevelopment at London Bridge or a medical facility in rural Cameroon. I know that these projects will continue to benefit future generations beyond my lifetime.