What we do
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How did your career start?
From a very early age, I was always asking questions about everything! I was one of those children who asked ‘why?’ a lot, and I loved to learn about how things worked. One of my favourite subjects at school was science and I was very good at it too (I was even presented with an award from AstraZeneca for a research project I took part in at an early age). I had a particular interest in astronomy and when I was about 13, my parents bought me my first telescope.
Unfortunately I didn’t receive the encouragement from school that I should have. Rather than embracing and encouraging my passion for science and technical subjects, I went to a hairdressing salon for work experience and at the time, I didn’t know how to challenge this to get into something more relevant. Following sixth form, I got my first job and worked my way from support worker (working with young people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour) to deputy manager. I did this for a number of years deciding to leave and start a new job as a PA (pulling on other skills which I had), eventually becoming an Executive PA.
Following the birth of my son, it was time for a new challenge so I decided to apply for a role with the intention of finally following my dream. I applied to Shared Services with my existing PA skills and at the same time, I started studying towards my BSc Hons in Physics and Mathematics with the Open University. I was very open from the start that it was my intention to ‘one day’ enter into a more technical role and I was supported and encouraged to visit different areas of site to get a better overall understanding of what we do.
I have met lots of interesting people and have learnt so much. I was put in touch with the head of the Criticality Safety Group and the rest is history – I am now a Trainee Criticality Safety Assessor and I can honestly say that I love my job! I’m learning new things every day, I get to ask lots of questions and I work with a great team!
Tell us about your time at AWE?
I am a Trainee Criticality Safety Assessor. The team is responsible for ensuring criticality safety in all fissile work at AWE. The majority of my role involves writing safety assessments which requires a lot of background work such as; modelling fissile systems using computer software, hand calculations and justification of the limits and conditions set out in the assessment. We also provide guidance and advice to the facilities and we are also a very important part of the emergency response team on site. Criticality safety is one of the most important parts of any nuclear site and I am very proud to be part of our team here at AWE. My time at AWE has been very positive. From the very beginning, I have received nothing but encouragement and positive feedback from colleagues. I am very proud to be part of assuring our nation’s security.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
I am learning so much and every single day is different. The role requires some knowledge of physics and mathematics but organisational skills and the ability to justify decisions made is also essential too. So, it’s a good balance between what I’d hoped for as a career in STEM whilst at the same time pulling on my skills learnt as a PA. I can see myself being in this role for a very long time and there are very good development opportunities for the years ahead too.
Why do you think there are so few female in STEM roles?
I think that females (and males) should be encouraged from a young age to consider STEM subjects for their future careers. We need to start with encouragement at schools. Schools need educating in potential career options in STEM so that they can pass this information onto students. We often concentrate on encouraging teenagers during their GCSE years which is very important but we need to start with children of a younger age. All children are inquisitive and ask questions about the world around them. We should encourage these questions and try to answer them as best we can.
What advice would you give to women who want to become a scientist/engineer?
I would say that it’s never too late! I started my undergraduate degree at the age of 33 and I’ve got a few years to go yet. In the past couple of years, I’ve had female friends and colleagues comment on my career development and current studies and a common statement is ‘I wish I could do that’. My answer to that is ‘why can’t you?’ – have confidence in yourself and follow your passion. If I can do it with a toddler, full‐time job and part‐time study, anyone can!