Chief operating officer

Read our interview with Julie Sharman, our Chief Operating Officer, to learn all about her career so far and advice for potential engineers.

What do you do at work on an average day?

At the moment in lockdown, it’s all about trying to get as much done as we can while working remotely – it’s a different kind of intensity. My ambition going forward will be to spend a couple of days out onsite with my operational teams understanding their challenges and less time in meeting rooms, because ultimately my role is all about what the people in my organisation can do and how I can understand their challenges.

Woman posing for photo

What do you like about working in this role?

I think one of the things I enjoy is probably talking to people that I don’t talk to everyday. I have a lot of interaction with my immediate team but now having regular conversations with different people and understanding the challenges they face, highlighting issues and working out what’s really important to people.

What challenges do you face in your job?

Even though I didn’t realise it at the time, when I look back at when I started in engineering, the way women were written about was so out of date and old fashioned. It’s really amazing now what we’ve achieved so much as women in engineering, and it’s really important to me that I’ve been leading the way in opening doors for people like my daughter.

What skills do you think you need to do this job?

I think I’m a very practical person. I can visualise problems and see spatial relationships. I also think I’ve got some strong people skills. Perhaps technically I’m not the best engineer, but I think I’m really good at helping people grow and harnessing the best things you can get out of people. I’ve always worked on the basis that if you can encourage your team to be better than you, you can really allow them to grow.

What did you do in your past that helped you to get this job?

I think I’ve always had a reasonable amount of self-confidence, which has helped. I remember starting my first week on site not knowing what was going on or what was required, but just understanding that getting involved and trying to learn and see as much as possible has been really important and has helped me have such a varied career. And I would say to people who are interested to really try and get lots of work experience and see lots of varied environments.

Do you think this job will change in the future? If so how? 

I don’t think you can come away from a year in lockdown without some kind of change. There are some benefits, like the technology, versality and flexibility that we can use. However, the work that we will do as the Trust will always be similar, as we’re always about engaging with people and how we can help people love their waterways.

Last date edited: 26 February 2021