Who are our members?

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This issue we caught up with three of our members from our Americas Region. From North to South, we spoke with Ivor Mansell in Ontario, Canada; Matt Nicolls in Florida, the US; and Patricia Darez in Santiago, Chile, to find out where their engineering careers have taken them.

Ivor Mansell

2012 marks the 60th anniversary of Canada-based Fellow Ivor Mansell’s election to the Institution.

Ivor recently took some time out to tell us a bit about himself and his story, as well as sending us further evidence of this long-standing involvement, in the form if the unique number plate on his car.

Ivor: In 1940 I was evacuated to South Yorkshire to live with an aunt, where I started work with a company called Newton Chambers. I completed my National and Higher Nationals plus endorsements, and in 1953 was awarded a Clayton Grant by the Institution which enabled me to spend a year in the USA. Here I worked on research and development involving highway equipment and excavators.

As a result of this I persuaded my wife-to-be to immigrate to Canada. I have been active with local members ever since.

In this photo I have just returned from a Sunday morning ride with my daughter. This is in her driveway.

When the weather is warm here I usually do rides of 50 to 70 km or so; however, I can't keep up with the young folks - I need a handicap of miles for years!

My cycle is a Jack Taylor made in Stockton on Tees. As a small boy I used to ride on the back of a tandem with my father and we often took part in club rides with Jack and his two brothers, Ken and Norman.

Matt Nicolls

MattBased in Florida, Matt Nicolls works as a Design Build Manager for AECOM. He is also the Young Member Representative for the Institution’s Americas Region, and has given the Institution his invaluable time, insight and efforts in promoting professional registration and supporting the activities of members in North and South America.

Here Matt provides us with an insight into his career and the path he has chosen so far, as well as giving us a peek into day to day life on the job.

Why did you choose a career in engineering?

My vision was to work in a field of engineering which ultimately had direct benefits for society and the environment.  So I chose to work in the business of water and wastewater.  I have enjoyed a career which has taken me to different countries and actually expanded my experience into the field of solid waste treatment.  The projects I work on are ‘Engineer, Procure, Construct’ (EPC) in nature so the engineering is heavily focused on managing interfaces.  I still have to take an active interest in detailed engineering issues so I feel I get the best of both experiences.

What is the most exciting part of your job?

Actually the people I work with give me the greatest satisfaction and frustration.  Engineering gives people huge technical problems to overcome and working in a team to solve them is a very human experience.  I guess my most exciting moments come along when we win a project or achieve a significant milestone, like the time we turned flows on a large wastewater project.  Or when we started up a pilot plant – and it worked!

What does a typical day at work involve?

Usually I am busy fielding queries, monitoring team performance by means of meetings, email traffic and phone calls.  We are usually either deep in a design process or assisting construction services by resolving site issues.  Of course there is the associated quality management and project management tasks like updating schedules and estimates.

What are your plans for the future?

I expect that the field of water and wastewater engineering will see my travels with my young family continue, and will provide me with many challenges in the future - the biggest personal challenge being to get over my fear of public speaking!

What advice would you give to engineers at the start of their careers who want to work in your field / in the US?

An engineer looking to work in the US would need to consider if they wanted to fulfill a technical role.  Eventually they may need to get a Professional Engineers license (each State has its own board) and to qualify is an involved process.  So plan ahead and make sure the organisation you work for are going to support you.  Oh yes and don’t forget the US works in imperial units - that alone takes some converting to!


Patricia Darez


Based in Santiago, Chile, Patricia’s career is focused on sustainability. She currently works for a wind and solar energy developer (Mainstream Renewable Power) as a Senior Energy Analyst.

We spoke with Patricia about her background, life on the job, and advice she has for others who are interested in this field and in working in South America.

What is your background and why did you decide to become an engineer?

I am an aeronautical engineer. I come from Spain but took my degree at Bristol University in the UK. At the time I was very keen to work in aerospace, but further on I realised that I was a lot more interested in sustainability and, in particular, renewable energy.

Soon after I finished my degree I started working for a wind energy developer in the UK. Initially this involved finding appropriate locations for wind projects before progressing to a more technical role carrying out wind energy resource assessments and technical due diligence of projects in different locations across the world, including South Africa, Bulgaria, France, Poland, Turkey, Russia and India.

What does your job entail?

My job is very varied but includes selecting project locations that will produce the best energy outputs, designing measurement campaigns, managing contractors who install and maintain our measurement stations, carrying out energy yield predictions for our projects, reviewing technical consultants’ reports, and giving my colleagues technical advice regarding wind and solar projects.

What is a typical day on the job like?

There is no typical day. I have a lot of freedom to organise my workload so I try to keep it varied. Some days I work on programming tools or writing up procedures to improve the quality of what we do. Other days I go on site visits in the Atacama Desert to investigate new project opportunities, or to carry out proactive maintenance on our solar measurement stations. Some days my site visits can take me to Valdivian forests where we have wind projects. I also enjoy spending my time analysing the data we collect from our stations. When this happens, I often get to work from home so I can avoid the distractions that come with an open plan office.

What are the most rewarding (and least enjoyable!) parts of your job?

I love being a part of the worldwide transition to a more sustainable energy network. In my six years in the renewable energy industry I have not once dreaded a Monday, regardless of my workload!

As for the least enjoyable, I don’t know. In the UK I would have said cycling to work in the rain most days of the year. In Santiago that problem no longer exists as it is virtually always wonderful weather. So I guess cycling to work in the smog.

What advice would you give to engineers at the start of their careers who want to work in your field / in South America?

You spend at least eight hours a day for five days of the week at work. This is a big part of your life so make sure you choose a field you are passionate about. Renewables is a great industry to work in but competition can be tough for a graduate so if you can get an internship or some work experience while you are still studying, I would recommend this.

If you want to work in South America, learn Spanish. Language skills are very valuable for engineers who want to improve their global mobility.

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