Celebrating our colleagues: Julie Sharman

To celebrate women in engineering we’ve been speaking to some of the women around the Trust who play a huge part in making our canals and rivers the special places that we know and love. Julie Sharman is our chief operating officer and here she tells us about what that involves.

Julie Sharman

I began my career in construction with Taylor Woodrow, working on the Channel Tunnel. The team I worked with helped to reclaim a large area of land from the sea with the material from the Tunnels. I also worked with the miners to set the line of cross-passages between service tunnel and main tunnels. I was there from the early days of the project but left before the two sides met in the middle.

I then worked in London on the Jubilee Line extension constructing Southwark station working with the French-Japanese consortium Aoki-Soletanche before joining British Waterways in 1996.

I have had a very varied and enjoyable working career in waterways; from meeting Ministers and MP’s to working alongside our colleagues and volunteers. In my current role our priority is to deliver a canal and river network with meets the aspirations of our visitors and customers. I also lead on safety for the Trust, most of our work is delivered through our regions but my team includes customer service, boating, restoration and infrastructure services. Through the six regions my team are responsible for all the day to day running of the waterways as well as dealing with emergency response and fixing of failures. The work I did in my previous role as executive head of asset management and performance, has been particularly useful as a foundation for my current responsibilities as the maintenance of our locks, bridges, tunnels, and aqueducts are key to a serviceable network.

Our job is to ensure the waterway network works. We look after the whole network, operating locks and bridges, grass cutting, facilities maintenance, planned preventative maintenance and engaging with our wonderful team of volunteers. We take care of the environment and ensure our heritage is conserved for future generations.

The most rewarding parts of my role are seeing the difference that we make to peoples lives, through our community engagement and volunteering we can see how much our wonderful network can be a catalyst for changing lives, whether people join us to volunteer and all the interaction and activity that comes with volunteering or just to use the network to stay healthy, either on the towpath or on the water, we know our waterways make a difference and the quality of the environment is key to that.

I get to wear a hard hat and get out on site at least once a month. As my first job was in construction I feel very at home in a hard hat, and it keeps your head warm and dry!

We have seen many challenges most recently the Toddbrook reservoir emergency or previously the impact of the 2015 Boxing Day floods. Our priority is to keep the public and our customers safe, as a major infrastructure provider we are clear on our responsibilities.

The great thing with engineering is delivering something physical at the end, not all jobs can offer that level of satisfaction.

If you’re thinking of getting into engineering why not give it a go? It’s interesting, rewarding and will give you the chance of a great career.

Last date edited: 16 December 2020