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After pursuing two very different routes into the industry, twins Leo and Francesca Palmer now find themselves working together in the same team on HS2, one of the most demanding and exciting transport projects in Europe.
How did you both end up working in the industry?
Fran: A happy accident really! I studied Russian at university and once I graduated I knew I wanted to work in an analytical role (and also needed to earn some money!). I got a temporary job working in construction and quickly realised how much I liked working in the industry.
Leo: I was working as a supply chain analyst at a large retailer, Fran was already working in Costain and made it easy to recognise the similarities in the skills required for both of our roles. Anyone who knows Fran will know about her ability to incessantly nag and she encouraged me for a whole year to join Costain! I finally caved in in March this year and now wish I had listened to her sooner.
What do your backgrounds bring to your roles?
Leo: For me, without having a degree, one of the main things is diversity of thought. As I don’t come from a technical background and haven’t been schooled in the same way, I approach things differently and can often bring a diverse perspective. Working as an analyst previously has supplied me with the necessary functional skills to have a meaningful impact in the work I do here at Costain.
Fran: I would echo Leo’s sentiment. It’s interesting not having a traditional background such as an engineer or quantity surveyor. I am naturally curious and really keen to learn, and Costain has provided me with some wonderful opportunities to move around and work on different projects.
What projects are you currently working on?
Leo: We are both currently working as project control engineers on the HS2 Main Works Contract. I’m only into my second month on this project and so my focus continues to be on delving deep into the ways of working here, and developing compelling relationships between my colleagues to maximise my impact within the team.
Fran: As well as working on the project, myself and a colleague, Nick Hill, have set up a Young Professionals Network. We are both passionate about creating a connected platform to share experiences and knowledge; creating an open culture to allow growth and change and also to fully recognise and utilise the increasing diversity in our workforce. Most importantly for us, it is about establishing a network where can all grow together.
What would you say to someone thinking about the construction/engineering industry as a career?
Fran: Absolutely go for it. It’s a really exciting time to be in the industry as there is so much change going on. As a result, we are being exposed to new opportunities, new ways of working and even new ways of thinking, which is brilliant.
Leo: Don’t wait as long as I did!
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