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Ian Leek

Ian Leek

I started my master’s degree at Cardiff University in October 1990 having already graduated there in 1985. At the time I was working within the Civil Service, dealing with Companies Law but was looking to further my career as a geologist.   

During 1990 Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences were looking to extend their range of master’s courses to be more industry based. I was lucky enough to be one of the first full-time students to attend that year. At the time this course was called MSc Engineering Geology, but subsequently evolved into the current MSc in Applied Environmental Geology.

Even though I had been out of academia for five years, I thoroughly enjoyed the course with the wide range of topics covered. The teaching provided in the lectures and the practical based aspects of the course were excellent. Elements of the course have been invaluable during my career, and I am still using the skills I learnt during my time at Cardiff University.

Career after graduating

I completed my master’s degree in September 1991 and quickly obtained employment as an Engineering Geologist with Thyssen Geotechnical in Llanelli. My initial role was as a site engineer supporting site agents on large projects. This involved rock and soil logging and producing engineers logs within specified contract periods, as well as continually checking all drilling crews/rigs to ensure they had all the relavent materials required to complete their work.

After a couple of years my knowledge and experience of how to run ground engineering contracts in accordance with various conditions of contract and specifications increased significantly. I then became a Site Agent running large schemes such as the installation of groundwater monitoring boreholes for both the Usk River and Cardiff Bay Barrage projects.

A benefit of beginning my career with a geotechnical contractor was working on a number of high profile multi-million pound projects across the UK including Cog Moors Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW), Stoke Bardolph WWTW, Newark Sewage Tunnel Project, Tysley Waste Incinerator, A485 Glangwili to Alltwalis Road upgrade, and Blaina West Landslide. During my master’s degree I had covered a number of investigative methods, but the projects with Thyssen Geotechnical enabled me to experience the practical aspects of ground investigation techniques.

Moving on

After 5 years I felt I had gained enough experience as a contractor and began working as a consultant engineering/contaminated land geologist role with Wallace Evans, who later become Hyder Consulting. This enabled me to consider more technical aspects of the projects I was working on, included interpretative reporting and detailed geotechnical design, and gave me greater control over them. Initially I was utilised as a Resident Engineer for a several Ground Investigations costing over £500,000 each, a significant amount of money in the 1990s. Around this time Wallace Evans/Hyder Consulting were involved with some of the largest schemes in Wales including tunnelling beneath the Newport Urban area and the Wentloog Levels/South Cardiff, a 3km long sea outfall into the Bristol Channel and Groundwater lowering schemes as part of the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill. I really enjoyed being involved at all stages of these projects from conception, through ground investigation stage, detailed design and then construction.

As the projects were completed and the volume of geotechnical work on them reduced, I decided to move on to a smaller consultancy which was involved with the design and monitoring of highways and infrastructure work. I joined Gwent Consultancy in 2000. My  role as Senior Geotechnical Engineer at Gwent Consultancy involved both the technical running of projects and the mentoring of junior members as site staff.

Large schemes I became involved with included the Ebbw Valley Railway project, Bargoed Bypass, Maesycymmer to Ystrad Mynach Road improvements, Newport Southern Distributor Road, Docksway Landfill Site, Penarth Head walkway and various landslides. In 2012 staff from Gwent Consultancy were transferred to Capita Real Estate and Infrastructure and I was promoted to Geotechnical Team Leader at the Cardiff Office. Promotion has meant that while I still carry out technical work, I have undertaken increasingly more project/financial and staff management.

Being part of a large multinational interdisciplinary engineering consultancy, I have enjoyed working on a variety of projects. Many of these are high profile schemes such as recent work involving investigations, stability assessments and monitoring of a number of colliery spoil tips in the Rhondda Valleys.  Currently I manage eight members of staff working on various project across the UK and I am a member of the Capita UK senior management Ground Engineering and Environmental group.

Giving back

During my career I have always tried to give something back to the local geotechnical community. I have sat on the ICE Wales Ground Engineering Group committee for two separate periods and was a STEM Ambassador for over 10 years.

I strongly believe that the opportunities and range of work I’ve carried out over the last 30 years would not have been possible without the skills obtained during my time on the master's degree at Cardiff University.