Anne Moloney, EFCA’s Young Professional of the Year 2015 and a senior project manager with Rambøll in Copenhagen, tells Engineers Ireland's David Jackson how her work on the Queensferry Crossing over the past four years has paid off handsomely - as has working in a variety of engineering fields with an array of international colleagues


Anne MoloneyIrish engineer Anne Moloney was named the 2015 EFCA Young Professional of the Year by the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA). Moloney, formerly of Roughan & O’Donovan but currently based in Copenhagen, won the competition ahead of 16 other professionals from different countries.

Moloney, a senior project manager with engineering, design and consultancy firm Rambøll, has spent the past three-and-a-half years working on the iconic project, the Queensferry Crossing.

Currently on maternity leave after the birth of her young daughter, Moloney explained to how she found herself in contention for the prestigious award: “My senior director phoned me while on maternity leave to tell me that Rambøll was putting me forward for the Danish Association of Consulting Engineers (FRI) award, which is the Danish equivalent of the EFCA award. I won Young Professional of the Year in Denmark in early 2015 and that is how I was put forward for the European competition. I have to say I never thought I was going to win it.”

“I was delighted and honoured to receive the prestigious award. I was extremely grateful to Rambøll for the opportunities afforded to me by working on the Queensferry Crossing project, and also for acknowledging my personal commitment by nominating me. However, this award and the recognition of the immense task that is the Queensferry Crossing project would not have been possible without the dedication, support and talent of my colleagues on the project.

“I was very lucky to win the Danish award because I was the first non-Dane to do so. Much like Engineers Ireland at home, the FRI has a good tradition and reputation in Denmark.  And, by the way, I don’t actually speak Danish, despite having tried twice to learn it – it’s a very difficult language.”

Career progression

Moloney graduated from University College Cork in 2004 with a first class honours degree in civil and environmental engineering and subsequently completed a master’s degree in advanced structural engineering at Imperial College London in 2007, and maintained a strong focus on working with bridge projects. After six years with Roughan & O’Donovan, where she received invaluable experience, she decided to broaden her work horizons and moved to Denmark. She joined Rambøll in 2011, a move that enabled her to work on some of the most interesting projects in her field.

Prior to moving to Copenhagen, through her time at Roughan & O’Donovan, Moloney would have, naturally, been surrounded by predominantly Irish colleagues while working here. The move to Rambøll called for a definite shift in how she performed her duties and how she interacted with those around her on a day-to-day basis. She was also expected to embrace engineering disciplines in which she had no previous experience.

“There were a number of challenges but for me the big change was the number of different nationalities. I had to be open to different cultures and ways of working given that there were people from seven different countries on the project team. This resulted in different working ethics and attitudes in a small space. At times this did lead to interesting meetings.

“Another big step was that my background was in structural engineering, and I was getting involved in mechanical; electrical and power; structural health and monitoring systems – areas where I had very little experience. It’s not that I became an expert in any of these fields but I certainly had to be able to hold my own in a meeting, I had to know what I was talking about. That was a big learning curve, I would never have got the experience in those sectors if I had not secured the senior project manager position, as I would only have been working in structural engineering.”

The Queensferry Crossing project

The Queensferry Crossing is a Scottish road bridge which links the Edinburgh district with the county of Fife. It will be the main link to the north of Scotland and will sit alongside its neighbours, the Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.

The project, which is expected to cost between €1.8 billion and €2 billion, will be the world’s longest three-tower cable stay bridge and will include unique overlapping stays in the centre of the span. With an overall bridge length of 2.6km the maximum span will be 650m and a maximum tower height of 210m. It is estimated that it will be completed by the end of next year.

The new bridge will partially replace the existing suspension bridge, which will become a route for buses and public transport. In addition to the main bridge, the scheme includes a new motorway with numerous road bridges. It is one of the largest bridge projects in northern Europe and the largest civil engineering enterprise in Scotland for a generation.

After becoming involved with the assignment, Moloney played a role in many of its deliverables, contributing to moving the venture along. When Rambøll needed to appoint a new overall project manager, they decided that she stood out as the best choice despite her young age and the enormity of the task. The role required her to lead and co-ordinate the multidisciplinary work done by a large design team in Copenhagen as well as offshoring partners in India.

Moloney explains how her role evolved to that of project manager: “I started out as team leader for the pier design on the approach viaducts. It was the first time I had used offshoring because Rambøll has such a centre in India. That presented some challenges: language barriers, cultural barriers, working across huge distances and never actually meeting your team members in person.

“The team quickly overcame those challenges and the pier design was a big success, it was delivered on time and its construction will be completed this autumn. That was my initial role and then I took over the delivery of the concrete deck packages and dealing with the client liaison for the third-party approvals, as concrete deck package manager. After that, I moved on to be the overall project manager (PM) for Denmark. Thus my role as PM evolved from my work on the project.

Moloney says that in Denmark staff are regularly promoted at a young age; if Danish employers think that staff are capable and have proved themselves they be will promoted and given opportunities to progress and develop. Although she herself believed she was young for the role, she was happy her employer believed in her.

“Rambøll trusted me, as I think I was very young for the role. They had faith in me, and that I would be successful. It was great that, in essence, they acknowledged my prior hard work and thought that I was competent and capable of taking on the immense role. But I always had the guidance and support of my senior colleagues from both Rambøll Denmark and the Rambøll UK project team along the way. It has been an experience – good and bad – but mostly good in hindsight. Obviously, when you are in the middle of it, there are stressful times and some heated meetings, as you can imagine on a project of this scale.

“The project is ongoing. It is amazing to go to the site and see it all come together. It is extreme engineering, so it is fascinating when it starts to take shape. It makes all of the hard work, long hours and personal sacrifices that you put into the venture all worthwhile when you see it actually coming together.”

Robert Arpe, managing director of Rambøll Denmark said: “Anne Moloney is the type of engineer who is able to accomplish almost anything she sets her mind to. This is partly because of her strong talent in project management, her technical skills and, not least, her personality and international mindset. Because of this she has a promising future in the consulting engineering industry.”

Settled in Denmark

Moloney is now very much settled in Copenhagen and will celebrate four years there in August. She lives there with her Irish husband and their newly arrived daughter. She is quick to praise the country’s working environment and, in particular, the opportunities available for female engineers. “In Denmark, engineering is a well-respected profession and the salaries reflect this.

“For me, one of the biggest factors enticing me here is the working environment for young families and working mothers. For instance, my husband is going to be going on paternity leave when I return to work in August, that is, we are sharing the leave between us.”

Moloney feels that the support available in Denmark for engineers with young families means that their career is not likely to be affected by having children and, in addition to this, childcare is heavily subsidised by the state. “In Denmark, I don’t think your career is in any way harmed, or slowed down, by having children. All mothers work and there is full equality for men and women in the workplace. It is just as acceptable for a father to stay at home with a sick child as it is for a mother. Hopefully Ireland will embrace this Scandinavian attitude in the future as I believe it benefits everybody in the long term.” O'RiordanCivilbridges,Denmark,project management
  Irish engineer Anne Moloney was named the 2015 EFCA Young Professional of the Year by the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA). Moloney, formerly of Roughan & O’Donovan but currently based in Copenhagen, won the competition ahead of 16 other professionals from different countries. Moloney, a senior project manager...