Kiwi graduate experiences working for Binnies during global pandemic

Danica Shipton, 24, arrived in the UK from her native New Zealand for a job with Binnies and was working on the Otterbourne Project when the coronavirus pandemic hit. She talks about her overseas experience working at Binnies and what she learned along the way.

Danica Shipton had just finished her civil engineering degree at The University of Auckland, New Zealand when she was offered a position in the UK, working for Binnies

Travelling thousands of miles from her home in New Zealand was daunting for the 24-year-old, but treating it as the experience of a lifetime, Danica quickly adapted to working on the other side of the world for Binnies and threw herself into the work.

Danica was excited to work on the Otterbourne Project, an £800 million flagship water improvement scheme to ensure resilience of the water supply to thousands of UK homes and aiming to increase the maximum supply available from the Otterbourne Works by 20%.

However, just as her new job got under way, the whole world came to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and Danica, like so much of the country’s workforce, was forced to work from home.

“Working at Binnies, I had always been encouraged to push myself and have been given plenty of opportunities to develop my skills. But working from home was quite difficult, from a mental health perspective,” recalls Danica.

“However, the team really worked to support each other through this time, from planned social calls to regular check-ins. The culture at Binnies really stands out because of how approachable people are, from graduates all the way to the leadership team. This enables us to make the most of our technical skills on projects and to share knowledge within Binnies,” she added.

Being so far away from her family and friends in a global crisis wasn’t easy, but thanks to the advanced IT infrastructure that Binnies already had in place before the pandemic, Danica was able to keep in regular contact with her loved ones.

“The first weeks of lockdown felt so surreal and being in a new country away from my friends and family just amplified that feeling for me,” she remembers.

“While it was tricky, I’m just so glad that we have the technology that we do now; I can’t imagine how difficult all of this would have been ten years ago. I was able to get support both for my career development and with my mental health, mainly by connecting with people through video chat.”

One thing that Danica didn’t find a challenge was being a woman in a male-dominated profession; in fact, she describes the Binnies working culture as “refreshing” and was thrilled to work alongside some fantastic female role models.

“I’ve found that being a woman hasn’t held me back at all, working with my current team,” she explains. “Binnies really promotes women in the workplace and has great female technical experts who are true role models.

“It’s such a refreshing culture. At a past internship, I was told by a co-worker that women shouldn’t be working at all and I’ve heard countless stories from fellow female graduates about instances when their team members or workplace haven’t provided them with a supportive environment,” she added.

After two years, Danica is now bidding farewell to Binnies to return to New Zealand, but she takes with her an unforgettable experience and some wonderful memories of working in the UK.

“Before starting work, I had the usual worries about a first job, mainly concerning whether I would be up to the task,” she says.

“I’ve been so lucky to have worked for Binnies, because in the times when I was struggling there was always someone in the team willing to help me. I have had so much support from all my team members, which has really helped me grow.

“I am so thankful to have worked with such great people and it makes me excited for the rest of my career in engineering.”

Everyone at Binnies wishes Danica the very best of luck in her future endeavours.