How did you get into engineering?
It was really down to my teachers during secondary school. They helped me to explore opportunities and subject areas around what I enjoyed, together with my strengths. I enjoyed design and technology (DT), maths and sciences, which ultimately opened the door to engineering. I was really lucky to get sponsored for my A-level DT by Racal Health and Safety (now Thales) when I was 16, designing a helmet for welding with an attached respiratory device from first principles, prototyping and testing it at their testing facility in Bognor Regis. Going through that project lifecycle experience from initial design development, to final product prototype testing really allowed me to see engineering in a new light. It provided a sense of fulfilment and achievement – it was incredible.
What does your role consist of?
HS2 is the biggest infrastructure project in the UK, at about £55bn. I am the Head of Specification and Assurance, and lead a team of 22. It is our job to manage our sponsor’s requirements, the Department for Transport (DfT), and derive those down into technical requirement specifications across the different phases of the project.
A typical day for me is championing and influencing parts of the business to take a ‘systems thinking’ approach. This ensures everyone is clear and aligned, so that we deliver the right optimised solution and output for an activity. Being able to see the bigger picture and understand how each part fits within that is key, to avoid any wasted efforts and minimise risk.
How do you balance your home and work life?
There really isn’t a glass ceiling for women that can’t be pushed open, through hard work, focus and determination. Sure, there will be challenges along the way – as a mother of two I do know that – but it is life. I’d like to think that I have been successful at both driving my career forward and being a mum. My husband is very supportive which is great and we take turns to do the school runs and activities. Finding the right balance and also the courage to pick yourself up during those lows is essential. This is where I always advise those who I mentor or coach, to keep the end goal in sight.
Interviewed August 2016