The life & times of an HVAC Engineer











Over the last six months I’ve been part of the UKRC & RAEng‘s ‘Ingenious Women’ project, all about developing and publicising the career’s of young female engineers in order to encourage more women to follow our career paths.

So, as part of the project I’ve been unashamedly having my face and my story splattered all over every website that would have me. For your delectation, and in celebration of 2500 visits to my blog, here they all are:

My first foray onto the internet, the website of the Ingenious Women project.

After that I volunteered to be a case study on the careers website of the ECITB (Engineering Construction Industry Training Board). Be warned, it takes a bit of searching for me on this one, as there is no direct link.

Then I was contacted by STEMNET to be a case study for some of their STEM Club resources.

I was also lucky enough to receive a training grant from Cogent. Since this was a huge help to me I couldn’t say no when they asked if I would feature in one of their articles.

Last, but by no means least I’m taking part in the ‘hidden science app’ where you can get science questions answered. This has led to be being featured on the Science Council’s ‘Future Morph’ careers website, a brilliant resource for any students considering science/engineering careers…or for parents & teachers trying to persuade them to!

I hope you enjoyed them. There are a few more that are still in the making, I’ll post the links to them when I have them.

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I was asked recently, as part of the Ingenious Women project & being a STEM Ambassador, to give a talk to FE lecturers so that they can engage & motivate their own students studying STEM subjects and encourage them to consider STEM careers.

My briefing was: “You will have 15-20 minutes to talk about your own career and the barriers you had to overcome. What were/are the good things you have experienced and what inspired you to become a scientist/engineer?

I really want to do a good job with this seminar as it will enable others to inspire far more pupils than I can reach alone, so I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it. I’m sharing my answers here as they might be of interest to more folk than just the Birmingham FE lecturers. Though if if you’re from Matthew Boulton College you might want to stop here or you’ll be reading spoilers!

So what barriers have I had to overcome?
– Technical understanding: I found Further Maths very challenging at A-Level, but I’m so glad I took it because when I got to university and found I was studying the same things in the ‘Advanced Engineering Mathematics’ module it all just clicked into place in my head & suddenly it was (comparatively) easy…everyone else around me was really struggling though, so I was glad to be able to help! Engineering isn’t easy, but once the difficult bits start clicking into place it’s very interesting and personally I found the technical challenges very enjoyable.

– Sexism: Even in this day and age there is still something of an obstacle to women progressing in engineering, and as such we’re few & far between. On the whole I find it doesn’t matter to most people what my gender is, but occasionally I come across real corkers. I think my most painful memory along those lines occurred at my Grandfather’s funeral. I was in my early twenties, studying engineering at university. I was stood next to my Mother when one of my Grandfather’s old gentleman acquaintances said to her “I don’t know why you’re letting her study engineering, she’ll never get anywhere with it, she’s a girl”. To be honest though, comments like that tend to spur me on to prove them wrong rather than being a true barrier…though pay disparity can still be an issue.
– Work load: Engineering degrees, and engineering jobs, are not an easy ride, there’s a lot of work to be done. Sometimes that can be very tough, for example; when all of your friends at Uni are going out & having fun or spending time relaxing whilst you’re working away in the labs or in lectures. Even sometimes just getting up in the morning for lectures while everyone else is having a lie-in seems very unfair, but I do love the level of knowledge and respect that the hard graft has bestowed upon me.

image credit: LorenGul on IgoUgo

What are the good things I’ve experienced?
– Having a positive impact: I love opening the bathroom cabinet to get out a medicine & being able to say “I made the factory that made this” – it’s very rewarding
– Problem solving: There’s something deeply satisfying about coming up against a technical challenge & finding a good solution that everyone (from clients to construction workers) is happy with. Or spending weeks tweaking a building & all its services so it passes validation just in time for an audit! Phew – what a relief!
– Seeing interesting places & finding out how things are made: For example I really enjoyed spending time in Cadbury’s research & development labs/kitchens in Bourneville – mmm chocolatey! I’ve also had the pleasure of travelling to Paris for meetings, and heading back to the airport from a Swiss meeting via a boat trip on Lake Geneva – I do love a bit of travel, I love coming home again too, but you can’t beat an all expenses paid trip to Paris!

image credit: racecar engineering

And what on earth inspired me to become an engineer in the first place?
– My Grandfather (he wanted to be an engineer, and had a fantastic workshop in his back garden where he made the most incredible working scale models of trains, boats and traction engines, he also volunteered on the Welshpool & Llanfair light railway)
– Exciting engineering projects like Formula One, I used to watch races with my parents as a kid & I so wanted to know how it all worked
– I’ve always loved solving problems and getting my head round how things work…if I get to be creative & use some maths & physics on route then so much the better!

A few more things also confirmed to me that engineering was what I wanted to do:
– Going on a Headstart course (a week in a university engineering department)
– Older friends who were studying engineering or working as engineers (you may not like to admit it Mr. Farmer & Mr. Prestwich, for reasons of age or ego, but it’s true)
– A couple of my teachers who spoke to me about my aptitude in their subjects (maths and design technology) and encouraged me down the engineering path (thank-you Ms. Maginnis & Mr. Harrison)
– The respect that people I knew had for engineers

So that’s why I’m an engineer…what influenced your career choice(s)?



{September 10, 2010}   I blog therefore I am

Yesterday was the launch of the Ingenious Women project at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London. 20 young female engineers gathered to learn about the project and various forms of media, and to meet 12 rather interesting “media mentors”. I am fortunate enough to be one of those 20 engineers, and this is my first foray into the world of blogging.

I hope, through this blog, twitter, and any public engagements events I can possibly get involved with, to raise the profile of engineering, to share my passion and excitement for what I do…and hopefully to inspire more young people to go into engineering. Please be patient with me though – I’m by no means an expert in communications!

I plan to blog about the engineering projects I get involved with, interesting engineering I see or hear about and the events I get involved with on the Ingenious Women project. I’m also happy to chat about my career and answer questions generally, or even to blog about a specific topic if there’s something I’m involved with that interests you – just leave me a comment or send me a message.

If you like what you read in my blog as time goes by then please share it with your friends, with anyone who you think has an interest in engineering, and especially with anyone making career/university/A-level/GCSE choices. But for now, just wish me luck…



et cetera
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