Eleanor Ball, Founding Director of Graphic Structures
Eleanor Ball is a Chartered Civil and Structural Engineer and is the founder of Graphic Structures; a structural and civil engineering design consultancy. She tells us about her wishes for the future of the construction industry and why yoga has replaced dining out as her favourite method of switching-off.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
A love of maths and physics led me to do a General Engineering degree - I was keeping my options open as I wasn't sure whether I actually wanted to be an engineer. However, during a summer work placement, I was surprisingly inspired by Structural Engineering and ended up taking a graduate role in that field.
Fast forward, and I've worked for three - very different - consultancies, been a Site Engineer on Crossrail, and become a Chartered Civil Engineer. I then became a Chartered Structural Engineer, simultaneously building my experience, until starting a business became the next logical step.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The fact that I learn something every day. I don't think you can master the construction industry!
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A wise woman once asked me "does everything need to be your best effort, could some things just be good enough?".
I'm quite a perfectionist, and it had never occurred to me that by trying to do everything to the best of my ability, I was overstretching myself. By allowing some things to slip, it gives space for the important things to be better. It has really been a revelation!
What, or who inspires you?
It's perhaps a bit cheesy, but my mother is my inspiration. She has taken the most unconventional route through her career and despite being in her mid-sixties, continues her unwavering commitment to self-improvement and challenge. She just got a new job!
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
Usually via networking. I meet so many people at events; it is my best form of finding out what is going on. I am also part of industry bodies and institutions which are useful for more technical information.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
Hands down the biggest challenge in my career so far was starting a business. Graphic Structures is four years old now, and I'm still baffled by the enormity of business ownership. I can't believe I thought this would be easy!
It is simultaneously the most fulfilling thing I have done, and I am so proud of what we have achieved.
If you could start your life again, what would you do differently?
I don't have any serious regrets! If I could go over again, I would like to think I could have a bit more confidence in my choices. More superficially, I definitely have the travel bug, but I have never worked abroad, so perhaps I would take that leap.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Difficult question, my first instinct is that I'd buy an office (some cool warehouse conversion) and develop the company to have a research and development arm. But clearly, I would go on holiday and most likely buy a yacht!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Go to the pub or out for dinner. I love living in London and making the most of the restaurants and bars. During Covid times though I've got very into yoga, which is probably more healthy!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I really wish we could become more efficient and more sustainable. Other industries seem to move forward at such a pace leaving construction behind.
We all strive for efficiency and sustainability, but cost, regulations and fear of getting it wrong are holding us back. The industry needs a shakeup!
How should people connect with you?
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