Please tell us a little bit about yourself..
I work as a structural engineer with AECOM. I started work in the structures team and, after 18 months, transferred to rail. I use maths and science to design bridges and structures. I mostly work in a design office but often go out on site to gather information about the location or to look at something I have designed being constructed. I have been working in rail for 3.5 years.
Please also tell us about your background?
My Dad was/is an engineer and I always liked maths and science at school. When in 6th Form, I got an engineering scholarship which got me into civil engineering. If it wasn’t for my Dad, I would have never thought about engineering! After school, I went on to study engineering at Durham University. I did a general course, mechanical, electrical, electronic and civil engineering and then specialised in civil engineering in my 3rd and 4th years. I have never looked back, I love being an engineer! As for rail, since I was very young my dad took me to lots of steam engines and railways so rail has been something I have been interested in for as long as I can remember.
What in rail are you passionate about?
My biggest success to date has been my work at Waterloo Station in London. I designed a number of different parts of that scheme and seeing them constructed and now being used by the general public is immensely rewarding. The great thing about engineering is that you can see your designs built – it is hugely satisfying to see something you came up with and designed being constructed and used by people! I would say the most challenging part of my job arises when sometimes, under intense pressure, I have to solve complex technical problems, answer queries, make decisions or changes to a design I have submitted which is being constructed.
What do you like the most about your job?
My work is very tangible – I design things and see them built. I can see the impact of my work every day. Almost everybody travels by rail at some point so it is a big responsibility to get it right. Also, rail engineering is such a huge subject, I will never know everything which means I will never get bored! I also enjoy working as part of a large, caring and supportive team.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
I would like to be managing project teams and leading on challenging projects in rail, not necessarily large projects such as HS2 and Crossrail 2 but also smaller projects where I could play a bigger part, be part of a smaller team but have a closer relationship with the client. In the past, I have found that hugely rewarding too!
What message would you give to young girls to attract them to an engineering career?
Don’t be put off if someone tells you “they can’t see you being an engineer”. If it’s something that you want to do, just ignore them and get on with it. Rail is a great industry to work in: it is very diverse – there are so many different disciplines, teams and people needed to make it successful and you can also have an international career which is a very attractive proposition. I was told by people when I was a teenager that they didn’t “see me being an engineer” because they didn’t understand what engineering consist of. Engineering is about using maths and science to solve real world problems but it is also about working in teams, communicating with people. You can also, as your career progresses, help make a difference to younger engineers by becoming a role model or mentor.
What do you think the rail industry could to support and attract more women within the sector?
Continue to improve training and mentoring within companies. Improve the image of rail, particularly for civil engineering. Ensure that when the industry manages to attract female talent, it retains it.
What would be your advice to young women entering the industry?
Ask as many questions as you can. Don’t let yourself be put off if you encounter a setback. I nearly quit engineering in my first week of University but then I finished top of my year. Support one another (men and women) share your experience, share your knowledge and be yourself.
Interviewed August 2017
How do you go about using your influence to drive change for gender equality in the rail industry?
When I have a conversation about women in engineering, the point I make is that without women, the industry is missing almost half its talent. I have spoken to young girls in my previous schools. I target 16 years olds because this is when your future is being decided: you need to take physics to be an engineer. I have given presentations, run interactive exercises, work experience and summer placement students’ programmes and I mentor young engineers. I have received amazing feedback. I find that hugely rewarding.
Do you have a role model?
Possibly J K Rowling! One of my favourite quotes at the moment is by her: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
What are your interests outside of rail?
Tennis, Parkrun, walking in the lake district, the peak district, arts and craft. Being with friends and family. I think it’s very important to have a life outside of work. You can really only do your best at work when you’re happy and well rested.