Getting to know…Yvonne Ainsworth

Managing Director (Onshore)

How did you get into engineering? 

When I left school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I only knew that I wanted to do something with applied maths, which was a subject I absolutely loved! In those days, the internet or even career fairs did not exist, so you would typically decide on a career choice based on the professions you encountered in your daily life, like a doctor, banker, mechanic or lawyer. I didn’t know anyone in engineering but my boyfriend at the time wanted to become a draughtsman (nowadays CAD technician), which sounded interesting but wouldn’t offer the career prospects I had envisaged for myself. I asked him whether you could study this subject at university (rather than a traditional apprenticeship) and he responded that this would be civil engineering. And that’s what I did.  

What path led you to this role? 

After six years of a highly theoretical university education, I wanted to work in consulting. I didn’t believe that I was cut out for site work and wanted to apply my ‘maths’ skills. However, I soon realised that I needed to understand how things were built, so I asked for a site placement for six months, which my employer agreed to. At the end of the placement, I loved site work so much that I quit my job in consulting and stayed in construction for the next 15 years, until I joined GDG.  

Why did you change if you loved it? 

At the time, which was before Covid happened, I had two relatively small children and a full-time job in construction. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to combine the two responsibilities and execute them to a standard that I would have been happy with. Construction was just too inflexible. I believed that consultancy offered a better option for a sensible work-life balance. In addition, I was also really looking forward to widening my horizon again, learning new skills and applying the knowledge I gained from working on-site to the advantage of clients with better and more cost-efficient solutions.  

What drives you to succeed? 

This is very easy to answer: it’s the people I work with! They motivate me, they inspire me, they keep me sane, and they cheer me up when I’m down. For them, I want to go the extra mile, help them grow and become whoever they want to be.  

What makes GDG special? 

GDG is very special, it has great diversity, the right attitude towards work and supports and cares  for its people. GDG has the right mix of work too, interesting projects where people can learn something new, technically challenging projects that will push your skills to the limit and projects that will improve your existing skills through repetition. I am lucky to work with people who teach me, people I can teach, people who will challenge and support others and people who genuinely care.  

What have been your career highlights over the past year? 

Having spent the majority of my time on non-technical related subjects over the past few years, I was delighted to be involved in two technically challenging projects over the past year. One project was to size piles for a solar farm in Ireland, we reduced section sizes and length to ensure the financial viability of the project. This pile testing produced unusual and unexpected results that required a lot of brainstorming for explanations.  

Another project in the Southeast of the UK dealt with extremely poor ground conditions, we were overseeing the design of a retaining wall which was modelled in Plaxis 2D, while taking into account 3D effects to make it work. This project also provided an opportunity for me to use my previous site experience to change something that didn’t ‘look right’ but we had no way of proving it at that point.  

The non-technical highlight for me has been seeing GDG grow and build teams around the world, whilst still maintaining its culture. This makes me very proud to work for GDG.  

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business? 

Never give up, follow your dreams and trust your instincts. Believe in yourself!

 

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