Claire Doyle: From the design office to the principal’s office

Claire Doyle graduated from university with a degree in civil, structural and environmental engineering, adamant she would never work in a design office.

“I wanted to work on a building site and get my hands dirty,” she says.

“I started my career as a junior site engineer for a construction company in Dublin. I was the only female on a site with 300 construction workers. It was the best fun, even though it was cold and wet, and we spent long hours on site. I learnt so much and that experience gave me a really good grounding in practical engineering.”

Two years of travelling the world followed and while in Sydney, she started working in the very place she vowed never to set foot in.

“Turns out, working in a design office wasn’t so bad after all,” she says.

Claire worked as a lead structural engineer on many large projects in defence, education and health before finding her way to rail.

“I loved the challenge of the complexity of rail projects; the many moving pieces and I thoroughly enjoyed getting out on site to the rail corridor, stations, sidings, stabling yards and maintenance facilities. I was instantly hooked on the industry.”

10 years and three children later, she is still in rail.

“I am really fortunate to work in this sector. We are at the forefront of some pretty amazing city-shaping projects that will improve the lives of millions of people. Many of these projects are once-in-a-generation experiences and I am so proud to be a part of them,” she says.

“It’s funny that rail was never on my radar when I was at uni or starting my career. I didn’t have an appreciation of the opportunities in rail.”

As a Principal, Rail & Mass Transit for Aurecon, Claire manages large multi-disciplinary rail projects. Typical days involve progress meetings, workshops, stakeholder presentations, team and client relations and project management.

“I spend a fair amount of time fire-fighting to make sure issues are resolved as soon as they arise,” she says.

“I am still learning every day. No two days are the same and I never know what the day will bring, which is why I love what I do.”

The pandemic interrupted the way Claire worked, but not the work itself, as rail was classified as an essential service.

“As an industry, we should be very proud of how we have so nimbly and successfully reacted to such a drastic and sudden change in how we work,” she says.

“I do miss the face-to-face contact with my team and colleagues and roundtable brain-storming problem-solving sessions though.

“As great as technology is, it doesn’t replace the social aspect of interactions… despite that we are still delivering great designs and developing great relationships.”

Despite Claire discovering rail a little later in her career, she cannot recommend it enough.

“It is such a diverse, dynamic industry, full of such interesting and talented people. Every day I get to work with such a wide range of people including stakeholders like train drivers, cleaners, operators, maintainers, builders, designers, station staff and passengers… I get to see my projects through their eyes and balance all of their requirements to make sure what we deliver will make their lives better,” she says.

“Designing and building a more connected rail network makes us a part of people’s future. It improves lives and gives everybody better access to employment, education, social activities and healthcare and that is definitely something to be proud of.”