Q&A with Lynne Llewellyn

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Lynne Llewellyn BSc (Hons) CGeol FGS
National Technical Manager, Structural Soils Ltd

I have over 15 years experience working within the ground investigation industry, much of which has been gained with various contracting and consulting firms primarily as a geotechnical engineer. I currently work for Structural Soils Ltd (an RSK company) employed as their National Technical Manager. My experience gained within the industry has been wide and varied, beginning as a lab technician and culminating in my present role of overseeing all technical aspects of ground engineering for Structural Soils Ltd.

What or who inspired you to join the geotechnical industry?
I first became interested in Geology whilst doing my A-Levels. My teacher at this time was very enthusiastic about Geology which made an impression on me (and of course, I quite liked the prospect of field trips abroad). From A-Levels, I went on to study Geology at Cardiff University. Initially finding employment as a Geologist proved quite difficult as no one was prepared to employ me with no work experience, so I began my career as a laboratory technician on minimum wage. In retrospect, I am glad I did this as it provided me with a good grounding and understanding of the geotechnical testing side of the industry. I then became a site engineer (invaluable experience) for some years. As time progressed, I became involved in larger schemes gaining valuable experience from the many varied roles required from me by my employers. During my working career I have been inspired by many dedicated hardworking professionals within the industry who continuously strive to improve quality and actively encourage improvement and innovation.

What does a typical day entail?
As National Technical Manager at Structural Soils Ltd my role is varied and can differ from one day to the next. My main role is to assist the Technical Engineering Director to oversee, co-ordinate and implement the technical output of the company nationally. Therefore my working day can be filled with anything from training and mentoring staff to designing and implementing changes in procedures. Another day I can be giving tendering advice or reporting on a ground investigation. I also work closely with other technical specialists within the RSK group.

Are there any projects which you’re particularly proud to have been a part of?
Recently Structural Soils were asked to help the BBC DIY SOS Team who had a project in Swansea for the ‘The Roots Foundation’, a charity who provides support for young adults in care or leaving care. They successfully applied to the BBC’s Children In Need fund and the BBC DIY SOS granted their wish for a new property worth £1,000,000. The building they previously operated from was very small, dilapidated and not fit for purpose with the new build on the same site was potentially underlain by coal seams or workings.

Structural Soils Ltd gladly took up the challenge, without charge, to undertake 3 rotary ‘open hole’ boreholes to prove or disprove the presence of the coal seams and investigate the possibility of unrecorded old mine workings to satisfy Coal Authority requirements. I was part of the Structural Soils team who oversaw the drilling operations and all for such a worthwhile cause.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

Every day is a new challenge that is why I love being part of the geotechnical industry, no two projects or days are the same and therefore the challenges keep coming which is what makes me get out of bed in the morning.

What AGS Working Group(s) are you a Member of and what are your current focuses?
I have been a member of the Senate Committee since 2014 and am also the AGS’s representative on the BSi 526/Geotechnics Committee. As a member of the senate, I recently formed part of a task group set by the committee to update the ‘AGS Guide to Geotechnical Testing’ as this document had not been updated since 1998. I have also helped to review documents for the Loss Prevention Guidance document issued in 2017.

The BSi 526/Geotechnics Committee is responsible for planning, programming and coordinating standards in the area of geotechnics and on this committee I represent the AGS. The committee also provides UK input to CEN/TC 250/SC 7 Eurocode 7 Geotechnical design, Eurocodes related documents and mirrors the CEN/TC 288 Execution of Special Geotechnical Works. I ensure that the AGS has a voice on this committee and report developments back to the Senate.

What do you enjoy most about being an AGS Member?
Being a member of the AGS is rewarding as it puts you in touch with the industry in which you work in everyday allowing new perspectives and ideas to grow. At the AGS I enjoy the fact that new friendships are formed with likeminded individuals from different sectors within the industry.

What do you find beneficial about being an AGS Member?
Being an AGS member is beneficial for me as an individual as it assists with my own continuous professional development. In turn, I can help promote the AGS within the industry to ensure the latest industry standards, guidance and perspectives are being considered. The goal is for the individual AGS members to give this advice to our own organisations and in turn the Clients we undertake work for driving the industry forward.

Why do you feel the AGS is important to the industry?
The AGS with so many member companies within the industry is important as it brings together the professional and dedicated members of various firms with specialist knowledge of both geotechnical and geoenvironmental specialism’s giving them a platform for discussing industry standards and best practice. The AGS data format is also an invaluable part of the AGS work.

What changes would you like to see implemented in the geotechnical industry?
Within the AGS meetings and the wider industry there are always ‘hot’ topics regarding certain aspects of our work which we could change to improve technical output, quality including reducing H&S incidences. By being a member of the AGS I hope to continue to support these initiatives and spread the word.

This Q&A was featured in the May/June 2018 issue of the AGS Magazine, which can be viewed here.