Welcome to Meet Our Geoquip, a new regular post featuring our people insights from across Geoquip Marine. This regular feature is an opportunity for the many diverse voices working in both on offshore and onshore teams to share their story, provide insights into their role in the company and offer advice to those looking to begin or continue their career in geotechnical engineering.
Today’s post features Zuzana Lednarova, a highly experienced engineering professional who works as both a Geotechnical Engineer and as an Offshore Project Manager. We would like to thank Suzie for sharing her story with us.
Could you tell us a little about your role here at Geoquip Marine?
When I am in the office, I’m a geotechnical engineer and I analyse data provided to us by the laboratories. This is data from geotechnical tests performed on soil samples which we have collected during our offshore investigations. I am directly involved with client liaison and with the reporting of that data.
I also go offshore, and, although I love being in the lab where I see the samples and feel privileged to be the first person to see these soils from depths underneath the seabed, I am now often the Offshore Project Manager (OPM) as well. My role as an OPM is to manage the project and the personnel on the ship whilst we are offshore. It has its challenges, but also its perks. I tend to take 15 minutes out of my day just to watch the sunset when I am on the vessel.
When and why did you decide to pursue a career in engineering?
I find engineering very exciting. The engineering solutions are continuously being redesigned to fit our changing climate, and I find it a very exciting and fascinating industry to be in.
When I was younger, the design of cars intrigued me, and I knew that I wanted to join the engineering industry one day.
When I attended Imperial College, I was further introduced to the large window of opportunities in the engineering world and became more aware of the changing climate and how our engineering designs will be affected. The collaboration between the different engineering groups fascinated me and encouraged me to join the engineering sector (but geologically related as I love the outdoors and our planet).
Have you encountered any challenges or obstacles as a woman working in engineering?
Definitely! Not while working at Geoquip Marine, but previously when I attended construction sites, the welfare facilities were not set up for women, and the sites were not prepared to accommodate female employees. It was often difficult to attend meetings or site visits. However, with the progressive movement of the engineering sector and the higher inclusion of women in the industry, it is now becoming a norm to provide welfare facilities for women!
Also, there is still a little stigma offshore and sometimes it does come as a surprise to some men that I am an engineer or the OPM. Additionally, if I am working with someone new offshore, sometimes I do have to break barriers and prove myself before I am listened to. So, there are challenges for sure, but I welcome them with open arms.
However, as mentioned above, although there are challenges, as I’ve been going offshore for just over two years now, there is always someone on board who I have worked with previously and this makes the atmosphere more welcoming. I do have the support and trust from the crew who know me, and it is a joy for me to go offshore. As a woman offshore, you also tend to get your own cabin, or you share with another female crew member – it is very rare to be sharing with a man! Additionally, the Geoquip Marine office in Bristol is also very supportive and a is a great environment to work in.
Could you tell us about one of your proudest achievements in your career so far?
My proudest achievements… I could not be any prouder of myself, but also of my team offshore, after managing a project at the end of last year for Geoquip Marine. It was my first time as the OPM, and I oversaw the whole vessel and the project, whilst also checking and approving the geotechnical data that we collected during the project.
It was a very busy few weeks for me, with loads of challenges, but I did have an amazing team that had loads of respect for me and trusted my decisions and opinions. The support I received from Geoquip Marine has allowed me to take this step in my career.
It was one of our most productive months for the year.
What advice would you give to aspiring women engineers looking to pursue a career in geotechnical engineering?
Keep going and do not let others intimidate you. If you are unsure of anything, do your research and ask loads of questions – there will be plenty of people who would love to help and to push you to achieve what you aspire to achieve. However, you must believe in yourself first and be confident in your decisions.
In short, never stop learning. Always be curious.
What sort of steps should someone take if they want to pursue a career in geotechnical engineering like you?
I attended Imperial College London to complete a BSc in Geology and University of Portsmouth to complete an MSc in Engineering Geology. However, there are plenty of apprenticeships available now, offered by large engineering groups which could help towards pursuing a career in geotechnical engineering. In addition to that, always be keen to learn and do not be afraid to ask questions.
If you do not reach your dream job, always try to learn something from the job that are currently at. See it as a stepping stone and become a sponge to soak in as much information and knowledge as you can – you never know what will become useful in the future.
I have previously managed a leisure centre (I know it’s different to managing offshore vessel in the middle of the ocean with 5- to 12-hour time difference in the UK), however, it is still an experience that reminds me that I can do X, Y, and Z.
So yes, whatever jobs you are a part of, always take something out of it and to use it to move forward to eventually get to where you want to be…
Finally, what are some of your passions and hobbies outside of your career as an engineer?
I really enjoy fitness as I have previously been in the GB squad for Judo in my younger years, and I have kept up with fitness and exercise throughout my life. Even at University I was a scholarship athlete where I trained regularly.
With no surprise, I really enjoy the outdoors and going for long walks and hikes, and I am always curious about our natural formations, hills, rocks, mountains…
My simplest pleasures are reading a book whilst catching the sunset. With having the opportunity to be offshore on a vessel – I often catch and watch the sunsets!
I also have a dog named Biscuit – absolutely adore him. We enjoy our walks in the fields and woods.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Suzie!
If you would like to learn more about our offshore geotechnical site investigations, click here. You can also visit our Careers area and browse our latest vacancies and career opportunities.