Staff Spotlight: Lucy Diaper
What is your role within Geotechnics?
I’m an engineer at the Coventry office.
And what responsibilities do you have in your role?
I do a mix of everything. I go out on site, I’m being trained up in the office, and I help train some of the graduate engineers too. I’m aiming to take on more of a project management role in the future.
So what’s it been like moving towards project management?
You realise how much you weren’t doing when you started out on site. When you’ve got to start correcting logs and doing the lab and invoicing side of things, you realise how important it is to keep good records while on site. There’s nothing worse than sitting in the office saying “Where is it? We need it!” and it doesn’t exist. The transition has shown me how important the work on site is.
"The college I went to said I needed to do four A-levels... I was quite good at geography, so I went to the Geography Department. There was a person in a hard hat there who said 'Don’t do geography! Geology’s much better – go along the corridor!' So I thought, 'OK, I’ll listen to the person in the hard hat!'"
How long have you
been working for Geotechnics for?
Were you involved in the industry beforehand?
This is my first role in the industry. Before that, I worked at the zoo! As a student I got a job there as a part time assistant in the gift shop. And then I did a bit of everything. I did the children’s entertainment for a bit, which got me onto the outreach team. That’s where we take the zoo out and about, so you end up with a lizard, and a couple of snakes… the pets, as far as the zoo’s concerned!
I did it when I was a student, and then after uni I went full-time for a bit before I got the job here. It was good fun.
It’s a bit of a jump from the zoo to Geotechnics! How did that change come about?
I went to college and at the time I wanted to do chemistry. The college I went to said I needed to do four A-levels. I picked maths, two sciences, and I needed a fourth subject. I was quite good at geography, so I went to the Geography Department. There was a person in a hard hat there who said “Don’t do geography! Geology’s much better – go along the corridor!” So I thought, “OK, I’ll listen to the person in the hard hat!” I went along the corridor and haven’t looked back.
So when it came to university, I was initially looking at places to do chemistry. But then I thought “Why am I doing chemistry when my geology grades are so much higher?” I started looking at geology, and I got onto an Applied and Environmental course looking at mining and its effects. That led onto me coming here.
Where did you go to university?
Leicester - it was great fun!
What’s a typical day at Geotechnics like for you?
Today I was based in the office, so I arrived at 9 ‘o’ clock, worked through my email list to sort out any problem arising from yesterday. We’ve just finished a job in Kent I’m project managing, so for the last few days the logs have come out of typing and we’ve been doing any corrections, making sure everything’s in the right order and getting the laboratory side of things started.
What do you do when you’re out on site?
I was linked with a project in Birmingham recently. We’d turn up at the compound, and because we were working on the roads we’d wait for the traffic management to turn up. Then I’d go over what we wanted to do today; where boreholes would go; who’s going to cover each job etc. I’d get everyone ready and in position. I was basically the co-ordinator, saying “Right, you – over there. You need to come with me!” It’s all about juggling the space you have with what you need to do.
I also do a bit of training. On that site, I worked with someone who’d just started. So you’re telling them “This is what I need you to produce”; “Close but not quite”; going through with them how they could make things better. At the start of the job they needed lots of help, but by the end they knew what they were doing.
What first drew you to Geotechnics as a company?
Two people I knew from university had got a job here, and they told me about it. So I applied here and David Bland, the Regional Manager took me on. As newcomers, we helped each other a lot. I’d go out to one site and learn one technique, and I’d come back and tell the other two about it. So then they’d go on site and say “Oh yeah, we know what we’re doing!”
How have things changed while you’ve been at Geotechnics?
I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the change as you move up. You start off at the bottom and now I’m sort of in the middle, experience-wise. The graduate engineers will come and talk to me because it’s less scary than talking to the seniors. The senior engineers will come and talk to me and quiz my knowledge, or ask what people can do on site. It’s quite nice because I’m approachable from both ends. So that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed personally – how my position in the company has changed as I’ve gained experience.
Do you enjoy training graduate engineers?
It’s quite rewarding. At Birmingham, we started off and I was saying things like “Look, you’re making the same mistakes. Tomorrow I want you to concentrate on doing this”. By the time we left Birmingham, I’m sitting there thinking “Success! They’ve learned and they’ve improved”.
It’s quite nice on sites where you go out with the graduates as their mentor. You listen to them do inductions, for example, and give them advice to help them improve. It’s nice when you go out with them a few months later and you can say “You nailed that induction!” And it’s good watching them when they’ve got to the stage where they can run the sites.
What would you say has been the best part about working for Geotechnics?
It’s going to sound cringey but Steve told me I had to say this: me and Steve met at Geotechnics and we got engaged in September.
Thank you! Other than that, I’m quite a social person. I like going and meeting people, and when you’re out on site you get the perfect chance to do that. You get to know the characters and most people are really nice. And you get to the end of the job with these big, burly drillers and you think “You’re just a softy really!”
You get regular drillers who you see every other week. It’s quite nice when you pop up on site and catch up, because you are colleagues but also friends.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I found organising things quite hard when I was regularly doing site work, because I didn’t have set hours. That made it hard to commit to evening entertainment. It’s only recently now I am more office-based that I can start picking stuff up again. I visit friends on the weekends for a good catch up and a gossip. With my university being in Leicester, quite a few people stayed in the local area. So there are enough people around that you can have a good catch up and go out and do something at the weekend.
What is a fact most people would not know about you?
Most people probably don’t know that I was part of a brass band. I preferred to play the horn, but I played trumpet and all sorts of other instruments too. When you can play one brass instrument you can theoretically play any of them.
I started playing when I was about 10 years old. Me and my two brothers all went to children’s band for a bit. We used to play outside Wolverhampton Wanderers to do their Christmas carolling, which was always great fun. They’d let us into the ground afterwards so we could get a free match too.
When I went to university I got into a brass band there. It was a similar sort of thing: you’d go and do gigs – mostly around Christmas time. You’d spend all day as a geologist, so it was quite nice in the evening to go and play your instrument in a band and just talk banding for a bit. It was good fun!
Lucy Diaper is an engineer at our Coventry office. Contact the team to find out more about our site investigation work in the Midlands and beyond.
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