At Wood Thilsted we know that diversity delivers excellence. Wherever you are from or whomever you are, your skills, history and experience enable us to deliver better and better solutions for our clients. For this reason on International Women in Engineering Day during Pride month we are proud to be holding our first company-wide symposium on embedding diversity at Wood Thilsted. More on that to follow but in the meantime we sat down with Josie Milner and Marie Laure Descamps to talk a little about their journeys as Engineers.
I’m just back from maternity leave and what is particularly exciting is how far the business has moved forward in this time. My role has always been varied at Wood Thilsted working across a variety of areas in Geotech and this stems from my broad engineering experience over the past 10 years. The global push towards renewable energy has been really positive for offshore wind and it’s great to see the industry developing so quickly. It’s an exciting time!
Why did I become an Engineer?
I’ve been fascinated by the way things work since I was a child, especially when there are multiple solutions to a single problem. This led very naturally to an undergraduate degree in Engineering with a specialism in Geotechnics. I started my career in Australia working in Sydney and Perth with WSP. My early experience was focused on dealing with onshore geo-environmental and geotechnical site assessment. When an opportunity came up to transfer to London I jumped on it and spent a good few years working on projects around the UK as a Resident Site Engineer, Site Manager and undertaking ground modelling for geotechnical design. Onsite work comes with its own set of challenges and so a move into a Geotechnical Design Team in 2016 and two year secondment to Orsted enabled me to apply my extensive onshore experience to the offshore sector.
That in turn led me to join Wood Thilsted as one of the first 20 people in the business. For me it’s the diversity that makes Engineering such a great place to be. When I say diversity, I mean diversity of challenges, diversity of projects, diversity of skills and diversity of people – coming together to make the great, better.
What excites me?
Simply put, its problem solving and the global nature of our work. Wood Thilsted is an engineering business that is always looking at things differently. Just because there is an established solution doesn’t mean a solution can’t be improved or rethought. This autonomy and our variety of work brings stimulation and interest to every day.
The first offshore wind farm was built in 1991 so in the grand scheme of engineering, this sector is relatively young. The technology is also developing at an amazing pace engaging a vast range of specialists who work together to continuously adapt our methods and designs to new ground conditions, bigger turbines and deeper waters. I really enjoy working in this developing industry, within a diverse project team which gives us the opportunity to share and value our different experience, view problems from different perspectives and ultimately, develop unique, robust and technically excellent solutions for our clients.
What am I working on?
Over the last few years at Wood Thilsted I’ve worked on a number of offshore wind projects preparing the geotechnical inputs to support projects from concept planning through to detailed design. My most recent work involves site investigation scoping, procurement and management in regions new to offshore wind such as Vietnam, Japan and the Mediterranean. I am also the Geotechnical Lead for a large scale site investigation offshore Massachusetts, USA. I have also been lucky enough to be a part of the Vineyard Wind project since 2018 - this will be the first commercial scale offshore wind project for the USA!
Well that’s a good question, but I’m particularly interested in the development of deep water offshore wind projects and utilising floating turbines with different anchor concepts. These water depths pose new challenges in site investigation, design and installation. There’s also some traction for the first offshore wind project in my native Australia called Star of the South which would be really exciting to be a part of.
Why did I become an Engineer?
As a child I was always interested in Physics and how things work. I remember going to see sailing boats in a competition as a child with my father and thinking ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to design things like this’. This thought process lead to a Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering Masters Degree which in turn led to me starting at SBM as a Hydrodynamic engineer in oil and gas 13 years ago. After three years in Paris I moved to England and worked for LIC Energy and my career in renewable energy has just developed from there.
What excites me?
Similarly to Josie it’s the challenge. Pushing your technical skills to the limit and learning keeps life interesting. This combined with tighter budgets in renewables compared to oil and gas drives innovation. At Wood Thilsted we constantly push the boundaries with technical people using their calculations and experience to come up with amazing solutions. Our PM’s and other experts then do whatever they do best. It creates a very dynamic environment that is problem solving every day – not just delivering the same thing day in, day out.
The future of floating is a great example of this. Let’s take the installation for example – it’s one of the biggest challenges for floating turbines. So every turbine has to take into account not just all the normal issues but also what is just the right size and not too big so it is easy to install, functions effectively and is cost-effective.
What is so exciting at the moment is that it’s not just thinking outside of the box, it’s finding a solution, that works, from a different box. Now that is a challenge!
What am I working on?
I am working on some very interesting projects at the moment, including a Semi submersible demonstrator which is to be installed next year. It’s still early days on floating but this project will deliver a lot of learnings. The idea is to have it for there for 2 years to see how it will behave. It involves innovation on concept and manufacture. The concept is based on a simple structure and limited work at quayside. This poses some interesting challenges in terms of how to ensure the structural integrity, limit the floater motion and accurately derive hydrodynamics loads.
I am also working on some new pieces of software for the business. Technology is at the core of what makes Wood Thilsted able to deliver more efficiently and cost effectively than other businesses. Our latest tool will automate delivery of weight control reports for primary and secondary steel smoothing another step in the design process. As we all know the amount of steel needed in construction is key to cost and time of manufacture, transport and installation. This tool is another step in delivering carefully considered bespoke solutions for each and every turbine…
Well for me that’s pretty easy. Development of more and better technology to support our detailed design work. Further development of floating turbines so offshore wind energy can be used across a wider area. Finally, hopefully development of some projects in my native France.