Priti Parikh featured

Inspirational Woman: Priti Parikh | Chartered Civil Engineer & Associate Professor, Engineering and International Development, UCL

Priti Parikh

Priti Parikh is a chartered civil engineer and Associate Professor in Engineering and International Development at University College London.

She has over 15 years of engineering industry experience in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the UK with consultancies to include hands-on experience of designing infrastructure for slums in partnership with local communities. She created and now leads the interdisciplinary EFID Research Centre, which focuses on research in relation to water, sanitation and energy infrastructure in low-middle income countries. She was awarded the prestigious BBOXX/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research fellowship that focuses on energy access in sub-Sahara Africa through smart solar solutions. Dr. Parikh and her team of doctoral and post-doctoral researchers using mixed-method approaches for research focusing on the provision of sustainable and resilient infrastructure, environmental improvements and business models for resource constrained settings (slums and rural communities). Dr. Parikh has expertise in infrastructure (water, sanitation and energy) for resource constrained settings such as slums and rural communities in Africa and Asia. She is also leading research on developing evidence base to link SDG’s and infrastructure.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

After working in engineering industry for 15 years I became an academic. As an Associate Professor at University College London I head the Engineering for International Development Centre where we research infrastructure solutions for resource challenged communities. Our research footprint includes Asia, Africa and Latin America. We evidence links between infrastructure and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to foster action and investment in infrastructure.

Here is a link to our centre: (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/construction/research/engineering-international-development-centre)

Two years ago, I was awarded a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship focussing on off-grid solar energy solutions for Sub-Saharan Africa. I am addressing energy access in Kenya, Rwanda, Togo and the DRC through developing an improved understand of energy consumption trends combined with behaviour change interventions for remote communities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In me early days yes I did plan out my career and then realised that life does not always go to plan. But what is more important is to keep sight of the vision and big goals and curate a journey which works for you as an individual. For example, my mission is to improve infrastructure for those living in resource challenged settings. This took me down an interesting journey spanning academia and industry – something that I did not anticipate in my 20’s.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes a few. The first one is ‘Imposter syndrome’ where I constantly feel and question whether I am suitable for a task or role. I often ask myself how a male colleague would react if offered the same role to get rid of my anxiety. Additionally as an Asian women in engineering there has been instances where I felt it is difficult to be heard or taken seriously especially in early stages of my career. Things are improving now but still more needs to be done to support career progression pathways for BAME women engineers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Firstly, providing leadership to create a vibrant interdisciplinary research centre at University College London is exciting as it gives engineer’s and non-engineer’s space to work together on jointly solving global challenges.

I recently got elected to the Institution of Civil Engineer’s Council (ICE) . The Council drives the agenda by being the key decision-making body for ICE’s learned society activity. This gives me the opportunity to influence engineering thinking and action externally.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Being persistent in a quiet, calm and confident manner. I believe in doing good work and letting the work speak for itself in due course.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Doing good work of high quality, having mentors and a support structure to talk through difficult situations and staying confident. Learning to balance time spent on networking and doing the work is key. Both activities are required but just networking without the doing the work does not build up your reputation and likewise just doing the work without dissemination is not helpful as well.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, retention and progression to leadership can be a barrier for women working in tech. Whilst most organisations have diversity and inclusion policies and strategies it is time for action to change day-to-day lived experiences.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies will need to build on policies to make tangible changes to working lives of women, open up progression opportunities in a clear and transparent way and review metrics for progression to make sure they build on strengths that women bring to the table. Quite often the metrics for progression reflect quantitative metrics and exclude a lot of enabling activities that women in tech  often get involved in.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

It is time for tangible action to attract women into tech, retain and support them to achieve fulfilling careers.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Who Moved My Cheese?  Authored by Spencer Johnson, Kenneth H. Blanchard

This book reminds to that sometimes we need to find new pathways to achieve our ambition.


Priti is part of This is Engineering Day on 3 November 2021, a day created by the Royal Academy of Engineering to celebrate the role of engineers and engineering in improving sustainability. The Day is delivered in partnership with EngineeringUK who lead on Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (8-12 November), which will highlight to young people that engineering is an exciting career that improves the world and is contributing to net zero.  For further information visit www.thisisengineering.org.uk#EngineerTheFuture