I’m an Engineer… Alice’s story

21st November 2023

Human resources • Industry matters

Following on from the first in our short series of “I’m an Engineer” blogs, featuring female engineers working at Ground & Water and their experiences, motivations and challenges; this week Operations Manager, Alice Tettmar shares her story.

From Technician to Operations Manager

When I was asked to write this blog about my journey at Ground & Water, I had absolutely no idea where to start… It’s been a while since I’ve sat back and reflected on my journey. I have learnt so much and love being part of an industry that is an interesting mix of project management, engineering, and construction. That said, looking back to my time studying a mixed degree of geology and geography, I – probably like many of my female peers on the course – had chosen a course I was genuinely fascinated in, but hadn’t considered it much beyond that. I felt my options were limited to either Oil and Gas or engineering on large scale projects like tunnelling or major infrastructure, which I didn’t really see myself doing.

So, when I heard more about Ground & Water and the geotechnical and geoenvironmental consulting industry in general, it sounded like it could be a good fit.

10 months on the tools

Fresh out of university, and having decided to not pursue a job in fashion marketing (which in hindsight, was a good call as I didn’t really know anything about marketing, or fashion, if I’m being honest), I embarked on a stint travelling over the summer of 2016. On my return I joined Ground & Water as graduate engineer and found myself out on construction sites for the first time, supervising drilling rigs and was fully immersed in the life of a technician, driving in and out of London in a van like it was no problem. I loved it. The hours were long, and I learned I had very specific requirements on which service station I wanted to stop at each day (shout out to Cobham and Beaconsfield services). Don’t get me wrong, being a young woman in this role was difficult. I had to develop a pretty thick skin and it was uncomfortable at times. The construction world can be brutal! Thankfully I had strong support from the team at Ground & Water and navigated my way through it with their help.


About 10 months in, I was promoted to a fully-fledged engineer and I took on my own projects. This meant managing them from start to finish and learning the ins and outs of geotechnical analysis and contamination assessments. This was a steep learning curve, as I learnt to communicate with clients in a consultancy capacity and jumped into the world of reporting (which was VERY different to what I had experienced at uni). I spent around three years in this role, balancing office life with the odd day working on site (which I had started to really miss!) and became fully engrossed in the world of consulting. I loved being able to call myself an engineer and I was also given the responsibility of mentoring one of the newer graduates, Tash, which I loved. Being a small part of her journey and helping her to navigate the world of engineering and watching her grow as a person has been a genuine privilege.

The Top Site Investigation Companies in the Southern EnglandPrincipal Engineer or principal fraud?

I was then given the opportunity to apply for an internal role up to Principal Engineer and was very excited when I was told I had got it. I think my response, was “REALLY?!”. The title and role came with a level of responsibility and pressure I had not experienced before. I was taking more of a lead on the sales and commercial elements of the business, started managing a team and was part of overall company strategy conversations. I felt completely out of my depth and wobbled my way through the first six months, with what I now recognise as crippling imposter syndrome. I didn’t feel like I was experienced enough and when asked about how I got to the level I did at my age, my automatic response was “Oh, right place, right time!!” rather than acknowledging I had worked hard to be where I was.

Gaining in confidence

If I thought the engineering learning curve was steep, in hindsight it was nothing compared to what I have experienced over the last three years. My role as Principal Engineer recently moved to Operations Manager and I have taken a firmer lead with sales, account management, running the site operations and the technician/drilling team, as well as working with HR and the leadership team to develop and manage a team of engineers. I often miss the engineering element of my role and being out on site – there is a definite comfort in it for me and probably always will be. But I like the variety of my role now and I can take a higher level, consultancy approach to engineering, where I advise clients on how to get the best out of their Site Investigation scopes and the ground; to get the best for their design.

Inspiring the next generation

I wish I had known more about the industry when I was at university, which is why I thoroughly enjoy going back to Plymouth Uni to represent Ground & Water at their careers fair to discuss this with budding earth science students. I also recently did a talk with A-Level Geography students about potential routes they could take, which I found very rewarding. I look forward to my involvement as a STEM ambassador at more of these events and attending more networking events aimed at women in the construction or engineering industry. I never set out to be an inspiration and I find it hard to consider that maybe I am one. I’m just someone who pursued a job they loved and was good at.

However, if sharing my story does inspire someone to consider a career, they weren’t sure existed or one they felt women couldn’t succeed in… I hope I do inspire them to go for it.

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At Ground & Water we like the bigger picture. Our regularly updated blog highlights and discusses the industry’s challenges and issues. It provides you with insights into innovation, how we are constantly changing and adapting to provide you class leading, cost effective, services and how through investing in our team, we are delivering on our promises. And it’s a great read!

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