We celebrate today’s Fitzrovian women who have pursued their ambition,to reach the highest levels in their careers and fields.
8 Fitzroy Street
Dervilla Mitchell CBE FREng is an Irish civil engineer and the executive chair of Arup’s UK, India, Middle East and Africa region. Dervilla is one of the most senior woman engineers in the UK and has held many senior roles in Arup which she joined after graduating university, and is also Vice President of the Royal Society of Engineers. She has led large-scale, international and challenging projects like Heathrow terminal 5. Her engineering career has been varied, from project management to design.
Tell us about your career journey and any highlights
My career has taken me from Dublin to Boston and then here to London. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and on some fantastic projects. In fact, it’s been much more exciting than I could ever have imagined. In particular, I take pride in the role I played to deliver Portcullis House in Westminster because it was an extremely complex and technically challenging project. Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport is probably the project that is most personal to me as it involved six years based at Heathrow, from developing the design through to when the terminal building was largely complete. But besides the projects themselves it’s the relationships you develop when working on projects that really endure.
Tell us about a working day for you
A great deal of my time is spent collaborating with colleagues, clients and our partners. No day is really ever the same! I always hope to achieve more than I do but I start afresh each morning being optimistic and positive about all I do.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I was considering an industry role and wondered if I would be able to fit it in alongside my day job. A senior colleague advised me to take it on but with a strong caveat that if I did it, I must do it well. I did, and I still carry that advice with me in that I really do try to do a good job in everything I do.
What advice would you give to women at an earlier stage in their careers?
Have no fear, be confident and take up every opportunity you can.
What woman/women inspire you?
When I started out in my career there weren’t many female role models to look up to, but I recently watched ‘Hidden Figures’ and I hugely admire the work that those women did at Nasa. I was interested to read more about Katherine Johnson following her recent passing – what a challenging and interesting life she had.
What are you still learning, or planning to learn?
Lifelong learning is now a necessity but also a joy. It’s a necessity as the world is changing quickly and we need to keep up with the pace of change. In my role it’s particularly important to understand the role of technology, the power of data and how we can utilise them to address the challenges of urban living – whether that be congestion, air quality or making sure we design infrastructure fit for the future. The joy comes when you learn something new or surprising and are able to utilise this knowledge or pass it on in a meaningful way.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy cycling and in the past two years I have started running, which was a bit of a challenge for a non-sporty person like me. Now I try never to miss a Parkrun on a Saturday morning. I enjoy spending time in galleries; the Royal Academy on Piccadilly is a favourite spot to visit.