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A childhood love of volcanoes encouraged Carole Gallo to study geology and build a successful career searching for precious metals in some of the remotest places on earth.
Yet she is now just as happy grappling with traffic management on some of the world’s most congested roads to allow wastewater engineers to work safely on drains and sewers.
Carole is the Street Works Manager for Lanes Utilities, part of Lanes Group plc, the wastewater network services (WNS) maintenance partner for Thames Water.
The road that has led her to managing a small but dedicated team of street works management professionals at Lanes Utilities’ Customer Solutions Centre in Slough, Berkshire, stretches around the world.
Born in Marseille, France, her globe-trotting life began when he father was appointed to be director of an industrial gases company in Cameroon and the family moved to the West African country.
But it was Carole’s deep interest in what goes on beneath the earth – and we are not talking about sewer pipes made by humans – that resulted in her travelling to many more far-flung places.
Carole says: “I always had a passion for volcanoes when I was a kid and always said I wanted to be a volcanologist. But there is no official academic course for this, so I studied geology instead.”
After passing her degree in geology, Carole obtained an MSc in earth sciences. Then her globe-trotting began, as she lived in remote camps to help mining companies search for precious metals.
She first worked in Venezuela, for a Canadian gold mining company based in the USA before been transferred to the Ivory Coast, in West Africa, as she could speak French and English.
Then she worked across the continent in Burkina Faso, Niger, Tanzania, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, where she met her future partner, Mark, whose family are based in the UK and Zimbabwe.
When the gold price suddenly crashed, Carole lost her job, so she and Mark decided to move to London. That was in October 2000, and they have been there since.
Carole says: “My first job in the UK was for the BBC answering people calling into sports radio programmes. It was terrible. I lasted two hours! Then I got a job for Ealing Council monitoring work carried out in the street by utility contractors.”
That experience led Carole to joining Lanes Utilities in 2012 – after first working as a volunteer at the London Olympics – and she has been playing a vital role in the WNS maintenance operation ever since.
Carole says: “I have swapped sides, I suppose, from policing street works to putting in place plans to make sure they are carried out properly and safely.
Maintaining good relations with local authorities is vital, because councils impose fines for work carried out on the highway without permission. They can, in extreme cases, ban a utility contractor from working on highways.
Carole says: “We always aim to do things within the rules. My number one concern is to make sure we create a safe working environment for our crews and for the public. Minimising traffic congestion is also important.”
Some of the traffic management schemes involve excavating drains and sewers, others are for parking specialist vehicles like jet vac tankers or carrying out sewer lining work.
Carole says: “I am passionate about Lanes having a good reputation for managing street works. I think I can get quite fiery at times, to get things done the right way. Maybe that’s my love of volcanoes coming to the surface!”