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“Without engineers the world wouldn’t work!”
Ahead of National Women in Engineering Day, June 23, AWE Mechanical Engineer Wendy Patton explains why engineering is such a great career.
At the age of 29 Wendy is five years into her engineering career. After leaving university with a master’s degree in engineering she was accepted onto the prestigious ‘nuclear graduates’ scheme where she undertook work placements with four leading engineering organisations over a two-year period, then worked for Magnox Ltd for 2 years before joining AWE in 2015 as a mechanical engineer.
National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED2016) is an International awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. It takes place annually on 23 June.
Q: How did you decide to study engineering?
When choosing my A-Levels I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career, or even study at university! I picked subjects that I enjoyed and thought I could do well in. These were mathematics, business studies and government and politics. When deciding what to do at university, a family member asked if I wanted to go to her company, FG Wilson, to experience engineering. It was here that I decided engineering would be a good career for me. I researched what I needed to do to study it at university and undertook a foundation year as I didn’t have the correct A-levels. This year gave me the fundamental background knowledge in physics that I needed to continue my degree.
Q: What is it like working at AWE?
Within AWE it is relatively easy to move between areas to develop as an engineer,gaining experience in diverse fields. AWE also provides support towards personal development offering a range of on and off site courses; developing you professionally to gain your Chartership and if the need is there, there could be the opportunity to get further education e.g. Masters.
Q: Why is engineering a great career?
I enjoy engineering as it is a varied career. Since joining the field I have worked in many diverse industries including a whiskey distillery, a company that decommissions nuclear reactors, in the leading engineering company Rolls Royce and now at the dynamic AWE. My experience has included producing CAD drawings, calculations, creating technical documents to managing projects and liaising with a range of people. I recently got my Chartership and I enjoy helping others, so I now mentor recent graduates who aspire to become chartered.
Q: How would you encourage young women into a career in engineering?
If you enjoy Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) then a career in engineering may be for you! Look at summer placements from school to try and gain a better idea if it’s something you want to do. There are so many types of
engineering (mechanical, manufacturing, civil, and aeronautical) that you can get into. I didn’t favour any specific one over the other so I chose mechanical engineering as I felt this gave me a broader background. There is also the option of doing an apprenticeship if further education isn’t something that you find interesting. This is a more hands on approach and will give you learning on the job! You get paid to work and learn. If you are lucky, your company may even sponsor you for further learning.
Q: Why is engineering so important?
Without engineers the world wouldn’t work! Engineers design things from the pen you are writing with, to the vacuum cleaner you use or the bridges you drive over! It’s such a diverse and important field. Engineers do not get enough credit for what they bring to the world.
Q: Do you think there is still a misconception that engineering is a man’s world?
Yes, I think people still consider engineering a more male dominated career. At the moment, there is still a shortfall of women within the field. In fact, there is a shortfall of engineers in general. We are getting better and becoming more diverse but we still need to try and encourage more women into engineering careers. The issue is that a lot of women that study engineering subjects don’t move into the industry after. There are a lot of opportunities within engineering, as it is so diverse and skills are easily transferrable between the different sectors. I think more engineers in general are needed in order to fulfil the shortfall.
Q: How would you dispel this myth?
At the moment, the engineering industry is dominated by men. However, this doesn’t mean ‘it’s a man’s world’. Within AWE, there are a range of women up and down the career ladder. In order to be a good engineer you need to be able to solve problems and come up with innovate solutions. Having a range of people in the workplace helps when discussing and finding innovative ideas to technical problems. Engineering as a career is so diverse. I manage projects, people, do calculations, drawings and peer check co-workers work. If you think engineering is something you would like to consider, I would recommend a placement either during school or at university to see what ‘real engineering’ is like. If you can look at a range of companies, and then you can see for yourself that it’s a varied career and not just a man’s world.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years, what are your career aspirations?
Within 5 years I plan to be a manager or technical lead. I hope to gain further knowledge by working in different areas of AWE.