A Day in the Life of a Technical Manager

We recently caught up with Rhona Kirkham, Technical Manager in our Water Consultancy business, to understand more about her role and career progression within RPS over the last 17 years.

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Tell us your name and current position at RPS

My name is Rhona Kirkham and I’m a technical manager in the water division at RPS. My role is focused on drainage and wastewater strategy planning.

When did you become interested in the water industry?

I’ve always had a passion for looking after the environment but my favourite subjects at school were maths and PE - so nothing related to water!  It was during my environmental engineering degree that I start to take an interest in the water industry and went on to start graduate placement with a large engineering consultancy in their water project design office. After 2 years, I joined a very small, more specialised drainage planning consultancy called Clear, which had 8 employees at the time. It was there that I started to really enjoy what I do. Clear grew year on year and was eventually acquired by RPS in 2014.

Tell us about your role as Technical Manager and your responsibilities

My role has changed quite recently. For several years I have been the technical and delivery lead for one of our wastewater modelling frameworks. My new role is split between driving initiatives to grow and develop our people and a secondment to lead a green recovery project for one of our clients.

Both parts of the role are very different, with lots of opportunities to utilise my existing experience and also learn new skills and improve my knowledge.

Why is drainage and wastewater strategy planning work important?

Drainage planning is important as it helps water companies to understand where their biggest pollution or flooding risks are and strategically, identify the most beneficial options to reduce the risk, taking into account social, financial and natural capital factors. One of the ways we do this is through Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans (DWMPs).

A key aim of DWMPs is to understand the likely impact of climate change (more rainfall) and growth (more people) on wastewater networks and treatment works and identify how much investment is required, so that even with the increased future pressure on the network, we can still meet challenging flooding and pollution targets.

Describe your typical day at work

A typical day will include responding to emails and Teams messages, checking in with staff working on my projects, speaking to the client, checking outputs from delivery teams, putting together programmes of work and proposal documents. No two days are the same!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

There are so many but all involve being part of team - working together to achieve something great! For example, being part of a successful bid team that cumulates in the winning a framework; delivering challenging projects for clients supported by a large delivery team.

In addition, attending our industry conferences (UDG Autumn Conference) is also an annual career highlight as it’s an opportunity for everyone in our fairly small drainage planning industry to get together and drive the industry forwards.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in wastewater modelling?

Most people probably don’t know that wastewater modelling exists as a career option, but if you have an analytical / problem-solving mind, with a background in an environmental / geography / science / engineering based subject, and a good foundation in maths, then it could be the career for you!  We take on graduates and technicians every year, so look out for our adverts or get in contact with our careers department if you’re interested in finding out more.

How would you describe the people and culture at RPS?

Our goal in the water technical division is to ‘Grow our people, help the environment and enjoy what we do’. People who want to make a difference can make a difference at RPS. Those who get on, get involved, work hard and deliver results are rewarded for doing so.

We are members of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) demonstrating our commitment to supporting inclusivity. 

If you are interested in joining our Water Consultancy team please get in touch with us at UKRecruitment@rpsgroup.com


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