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Behind the scenes of Programme HYDRA

Programme HYDRA aims to create secure radar stations that can be operated remotely for the RAF. Two Remote Radar Heads (RRH) were completed in 2020 and a third is mid-way through the build phase and due to be completed in late summer 2021.

You can read more about our work on Programme HYDRA, but for International Women in Engineering Day we wanted to go behind the scenes.

Our team on this incredible programme happened to have an equal gender split. Engineering has traditionally been a male dominated sector in the past, and we’re excited to see the increasing number of women in the industry.

Good to see the number of women in this project. It is encouraging that the number is increasing, especially across such a range of disciplines.

Structural engineer

This team had women working in a variety of roles, including:

  • programme lead
  • structural engineer
  • architect
  • quantity surveyor

Day in the life

So what’s a typical day like as, say, a structural engineer on this unique project?

FCDO Services timeline

  1. 9:00

    Start the day by checking your emails and seeing the latest drawings sent through from the sub-contractor. You spend the next hour reviewing these designs and deciding if they will work. You send back a couple of small tweaks.

  2. 10:30

    Time to check the work on site. You don’t spend all of your time at site, but you will visit several times to check what’s happening.

    The rest of the design team walk around the site with you. You’re particularly interested in a section of foundations that you made changes to a couple of days ago. After talking with the site supervisor, it’s clear everything is going ahead as planned.

  3. 12:00

    The regular design team meeting is starting and you all go through any issues that have appeared. Together, you work through each one and agree ways to fix them.

  4. 13:00

    Time for lunch. Luckily, you are working in Northumbria and the views are amazing.

  5. 14:00

    You’re back on your laptop. The sub-contractors have a problem that no-one saw coming. This isn’t something you can solve on your own, so you have a meeting with the Project Manager, sub-contractor and design team. It takes most of the afternoon, but you change the plan to fix the problem.

  6. 16:30

    Before signing off for the day, you check to see if there are any responses to the emails you sent in the morning. The sub-contractors are happy with the tweak, and it’s time to get home.

The interesting thing is that none of the team, male or female, ever really thought about the uniqueness of the male/female split until quite late on in the programme, when it was mentioned by a sub-contractor as to how more common it is nowadays to see women in lead engineering, quantity surveying and design roles compared to construction sites of old. As a close-knit team, we just accept that experts in their field – regardless of gender – are coming together to solve a problem for the client using the strengths of each person to find the right solution. The fact that it’s less of a novelty nowadays is testimony to how things have rapidly moved on from previous decades.

Programme Lead

Image of radome being lifted into position at night