Talking with the ICE President's Future Leader Bianca Wheeler
ICE President's Future Leader and Construction Engineer Bianca Wheeler talks career, net zero and her role on the largest water infrastructure project ever undertaken in the U.K.
Jacobs Construction Engineer (seconded to Tideway), Bianca Wheeler, is announced one of the six new ICE President's Future Leaders and will be mentored by ICE President Rachel Skinner.
Every year, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) President chooses some of the brightest and most motivated graduate and technician members to be on the Future Leaders Scheme. This popular and highly competitive scheme has been running since 2005. It gives graduate and technician members a unique opportunity to gain experience, develop skills and learn about the industry.
The President's Future Leader scheme is an opportunity to develop new skills and accelerate early career development, and to learn more about the industry and ICE. Future Leaders meet and engage with senior engineering professionals, getting invaluable insight into industry development. They also become part of the Presidents' Future Leader alumni network.
The Future Leaders will each work on an ICE project that is important to them and to the wider industry. Bianca will be involved in ICE’s work on climate change, an exciting topic she says she’s excited to be involved with the Institution on at a more senior level..
At Jacobs, Bianca has been seconded to the Tideway project for four years. At 25-kilometers long and up to 65-meters below ground, the Thames Tideway Tunnel is the largest water infrastructure project ever undertaken in the U.K. It will modernize London’s 150-year-old sewer system, originally built for a population less than half its current size, reducing untreated discharges into the River Thames by tens of millions of tons per year. As well as cleaning up and protecting the iconic River Thames for generations to come, it will also improve the quality of life for all Londoners.
We connected with Bianca to talk career, net zero and her role on this impressive infrastructure project. Keep reading for the interview.
What sparked your interest in a STEAM career?
From a young age I was always curious about how things were built, I remember asking my father while our family home was being extended ‘What is the first step to building a house?’ This curiosity along with a love for maths and design led me towards a career in civil engineering. At the age of 16, I made my first step into the construction industry through completing a week’s worth of work experience on Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road, it was then I knew that large-scale projects, civils work and quite likely tunnelling were my preferred routes into the industry.
Tell us a bit about what you’re currently working on. How did you start working for Tideway?
I applied for an apprenticeship on Tideway in September 2016, working with the Central Engineering team. Since then I have worked with a variety of teams within two different delivery teams, Central and East, I have been lucky enough to be part of a variation of large-scale civil works such as deep shaft excavations, marine piling, sprayed concrete lining and tunnelling to name a few. I am currently working on the Greenwich Pumping Station site in the East section of the project. As a construction engineer, I provide our client with construction assurance and carry out regular inspections out on site – be that quality, health and safety or environmental. I work closely with our main works contractor on site documentation, site progress and build on third-party relationships.
What’s your favorite part of your role?
One of my favourite parts about my role is getting an inside look every day at the progress of the project out on site. And, meeting and working with such a variety of people both on site and in the office provides me with a much more holistic approach to my career and the industry as a whole.
Most proud career moment?
My top two proudest moments would have to be gaining my Technician status with the ICE (EngTech MICE) just over two years into my career, after working hard toward my professional review in 2018 and, finding out I was selected as one of Rachel Skinner’s President’s Future Leaders in 2020.
What excites you about the coming year’s role with ICE?
Rachel’s Presidential year with the ICE has already got off to an amazing start with the virtual Presidential Address focusing on climate change and reaching net zero carbon by 2050. The address has received fantastic feedback and has kick started some incredibly valuable conversations from within our industry on net zero, what role we play in this and how we can achieve this target. I am excited to work with Rachel, the five other future leaders and the ICE to help research some of our industries biggest challenges, what we can do to solve them and how we can help inspire civil engineers all across the world to adapt the way they or their companies work to help overcome these challenges. Working with the institution at a senior level will give me a great insight into how the industry operates, how they work alongside important third parties to achieve set goals and how members engage to increase outreach and knowledge.
If you aren’t at work, what would we be most likely to find you doing?
I would most likely be swimming or exercising at the gym, hosting a dinner party with a new recipe or doing some DIY at home.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?
Being part of such a diverse and forward-thinking group of people along with the fact that equality, safety and innovation is at the forefront of everything we do, makes me proud to be a part of the Jacobs family.
What can companies and industries do to focus on and support net zero carbon initiatives?
A key starting place is a company’s focus on its sustainability policies. What is it doing to achieve more sustainable practices, offset its carbon and move to net zero? How will it play a more crucial role during the tendering process, particularly for large-scale work?