Roma Agrawal is a diversity campaigner, author and award-winning structural engineer best known for working on the foundations and spire of The Shard in London, one of the tallest buildings in Western Europe. Roma attributes her enthusiasm for engineering to her love of making, and breaking, things with Lego as a child.
She was once described by The Telegraph as “the new voice of women talking about science and engineering and making it cool.” She has won international awards for her technical prowess including the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering’s Rooke Award, and an MBE in 2018.
Her first book Built (2018) won her an AAAS Science Book Award and has been translated into nine languages. This was then adapted in 2021 into How Was That Built, a more child-friendly version. Her latest book, Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions that Changed the World (in a Big Way) was released in March 2023.
Roma is also a very popular and much sought-after speaker, and has given thousands of talks to organisations, universities and schools around the world, as well as appearing on numerous TV and radio shows for the BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery. She is passionate about promoting technical careers to young people, especially those from minoritized groups.
Roma Agrawal is a multi-award winner and she has appeared as an expert in documentaries including The Tallest Tower (2013) and Britain Beneath Your Feet (2015). Roma regularly appears on BBC’s The One Show (2006-) and has contributed specialised pieces to a number of newspapers and magazines.
India-born Roma Agrawal has lived in a number of countries, including the US, before settling in London ready for her sixth-form studies. In 2004, she gained a BA in physics from the University of Oxford, before receiving an MSc in Structural Engineering from Imperial College London the year after.
After she had finished her studies, Roma joined Parsons Brinckerhoff on a graduate program before becoming a chartered engineer in 2011, which was then when she began her six-year journey working on building The Shard. Alongside this, she has worked on the Crystal Palace Station and the Northumbria University Footbridge; she worked here for ten years before joining Interserve as a design manager in 2015 and then AECOM in 2017 as an associate director.
Roma Agrawal has her own podcast, Building Stories, where she discusses the fascinating hidden stories behind outstanding engineering projects including The Shard, Brooklyn Bridge and the Basilica Cistern. She has also featured in a number of established podcasts such as Laidlaw Scholars, Careering Into Motherhood, Why Aren’t You a Doctor Yet, Monocle, Create the Future and BBC Radio 4.
In 2018, she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to engineering; this was followed by her being appointed a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers the same year and elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2021.
Her skills in engineering has won her a number of accolades over the years including the Institution of Structural Engineers Young Structural Engineer of the Year in 2011, BDO’s British Indian Awards Best in Science and Engineering in 2013, was voted one of Management Today’s Top 35 Women under 35 in 2013, Women in Construction Awards Engineer of the Year in 2014, the Association for Consultancy and Engineering Diamond Award for Engineering Excellence in 2015, the Institution of Structural Engineers Lewis Kent Award and the Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Award for Public Promotion of Engineering, both in 2017.
Following her experience working on some of the country’s most impressive structures, Roma Agrawal started taking her stories to schools and universities to raise awareness of women in engineering. Since she started, she has presented to well over 50,000 people globally. Roma is passionate about trying to encourage young people into pursuing careers in science, technology and engineering and is an advocate for promoting women’s roles in the industry. In 2016 she was a keynote speaker at the IET’s Young Woman of the Year award ceremony, having been a nominee herself once.
Her career has been covered extensively in both online and print media. She was a founding member of the Your Life Campaign, designed to change school children’s perception of science and engineering backed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. In 2014 she was part of Marks and Spencer’s ‘Leading Ladies’ Campaign; later that year she was chosen as one of six women engineers to follow on Twitter by The Guardian. She has hosted two TEDx talks, “City 2.0” in 2013 and “Three Moments that will Change the World” in 2015. She has featured on several BBC, Channel 4 and Science Channel programs including as a judge on Lego Masters (2017) and as an expert on Mysteries of the Abandoned (2017). She also judged the trophy design competition for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering in 2015 and 2017.
She has spoken for events and publications including We Are Tech Women, The Sydney Morning Herald, New Scientist, Assembly Magazine by Malala Yousufzai, Stylist Magazine, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Telegraph and The Engineer.
She has used her experience to write a number of books:
– Building Storeys (2017) showcases amazing challenges which have been solved through history to create our modern world.
– Built: The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures (2018) is an introduction to structural engineering.
– How Was That Built (2021), the stories behind some of the world’s most amazing landmarks.
– Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World (in a Big Way) (2023), where she will explore the building-blocks of engineering that have come to underpin the world.
Roma delivers a unique message as a keynote and business speaker to engage people around the world while also sharing her personal stories of leadership and resilience. Her mission is to drive accessibility to underrepresented groups and encourage women to reach the heights of their fields. Her speeches on leadership and confidence, and the panel discussions she’s chaired have inspired many to pursue their dreams.
Why We Should All Break Our Stuff: Based on the book Nuts and Bolts, Roma looks at the importance of understanding the small and fundamental innovations around us.
How to Build a Skyscraper/Of Pee and Poo/Three Bridges That Changed My Life: Roma provides lively presentations that demonstrate engineering ideas.
Five Moments That Defined Me: Roma provides a motivational talk about her life and her career.
Working as a Marginalised Person/Making Our Workplaces More Inclusive: Roma looks at how to make our workplaces more inclusive to marginalised workers.
“The image of engineering in the media is one of hard hats and men who fix cars and boilers. While these roles do exist, engineering is so much more.”
Just wanted to say a huge thank you on behalf of the whole team for your amazing work last Thursday! It was an absolute pleasure to work with you! You’re an incredible presenter and interviewer, and you coaxed the very best out of all the contributors.
Inspirational talk from Roma which has motivated me to continue my career and climb the ladder to success.
I absolutely loved today, the keynote speaker Roma gave an inspiring speech which started the day fantastically and made us all motivated and enthusiastic for engineering!
Thank you for delivering a wonderful lecture to our postgraduate students on the Shard. They really enjoyed it and were inspired by seeing a woman having such a successful career in the building industry.
Wow, thank you Roma, that was a fabulous talk. Poignant and funny, powerful and moving. Thank you, it really was a highlight of the day for me and lots of the audience.
You are always welcome back