The IET has always been devoted to inclusion and diversity. The IET has a number of female trustees on the board and from October 2019 the following women became trustees of the IET. We spoke to some of the women to find out how they got interested in engineering as a career and some of the work they have done with the IET. They share insights into their experiences and some advice for anyone at the start of their engineering career.
Jayne Bryant FREng - Engineering Director for Global Capabilities at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.
As Engineering Director, I am responsible for the commitment and collaboration of the engineers across the company.
Becoming an engineer happened by accident. GEC Marconi had started a course for aspiring software engineers, and they were located just five miles from where I lived and were even offering a salary for taking part, unlike other opportunities that were available at the time. After completing 2 years on the course, they offered me the opportunity to carry on and complete an Advanced Avionics Computing Certificate course. By taking part in these courses, I ended up finding something that I really loved and enjoyed doing!
After this experience, my career as a software trouble shooter then started, spending the next 20 years working on problem projects. My responsibilities included running large software organisations to running engineering organisations. I also took part in some project management before falling pregnant with triplets! After having my children, I made the transition to part-time employment and worked in a consultancy role working for the Avionics Technical Director.
In 2010, I was elected onto the IET Board of Trustees and in 2017 was appointed Vice President. Since being elected, I have found the experience to be both interesting and rewarding. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a wide variety of senior engineers from a vast range of businesses. The IET gave me an opportunity to promote engineering as a viable career for women, discussing the importance of diversity in the sector, a subject which is near and dear to me.
Sam Hubbard, System Engineer at URENCO
I joined the IIE and IEE (predecessors of the IET before the IET was created in 2006) as an apprentice. I really enjoyed reading the correspondence that came through and in a world with no social media, it was a valuable network and rich source of information. I was so inspired reading about the Young Woman Engineer of the Year that as a technician I decided to apply. I can’t describe how I felt when I won in 2000, but the benefits that came with the award far surpassed any expectations. I was invited all over the country encouraging engineering as a great career, particularly to females and took my 5 minutes on television, radio and national press.
I started to work more closely with the IET and was on the Qualifications Board, Membership and Professional Development Board, Council, CRC and representation at the Engineering Council as a trustee amongst other roles before taking up my current roles that include Trustee.
This has helped me at every step of my career. Now I appreciate the opportunity to work at board and strategic level whilst still doing a full-time engineering role I enjoy, I want to be able to improve systems daily but have the experience and understanding of governance of a considerable organisation, the professional support has been exceptional.
My career started with 21 years in Paper Manufacturing as an apprentice, technician and engineer. After this, I decided to change my job and now work at a nuclear fuel processing plant. It was a completely new process to me, but I can apply my knowledge of engineering and solve the new problems in front of me. I enjoy working with people, supervising and supporting them but I relish the chance to learn something new and learning about new systems has been a fantastic reinvention of my working day.
I became interested in engineering as I was always curious about how things worked. I loved practical work and enjoyed helping my dad at home with any projects he had at the time. We also built and flew remote control planes, helicopters and hovercrafts. I loved Design Technology in school and couldn’t believe this was actually an option as a job, to design, make, improve any objects using such a variety of skills and equipment! Although I started university to study engineering after a couple of years, I was disappointed that the course wasn’t as hands on as I really wanted it to be and so an apprenticeship worked extremely well for me. I decided to complete college and my apprenticeship before going back to university 7 years later, after a lot of work experience. For me this was the right way to learn and grow as an engineer, it’s amazing that there are so many valid routes to do such a wide opportunity of engineering roles!
Yewande Akinola – Innovation lead with Laing O Rourke's Engineering Excellence group
I am an Engineer, Innovator and Presenter. I currently work in an Innovation Lead role within Laing O Rourke's Engineering Excellence group. With a mandate to support the construction's industry's ability to innovate, I lead the invention and innovation of building products and systems that support modular construction and align to a Design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA).
In 2012 I won the IET Young Woman of the Year Awards and gained an amazing insight into the ambition and activities of the IET. From day one, I was impressed by the member offering and the drive to continuously meet the demand of membership. This inspired me to want to be part of the IET family, to join in on the efforts to raise the bar, to provide great learning opportunities for members and to improve on engineering engagement with society. It continues to be a wonderful pleasure to be part of the IET family.
From a young age, I was very interested in buildings. I was almost 100% sure that I was going to study architecture. I wanted to be able to design comfortable living spaces for people around me. Just before I started applying to universities, my mum said something along the lines of “Wande, I know that you are interested in architecture but if you studied engineering you would be able to design a whole host of things”. I wasn’t 100% convinced, so I applied to four universities to study architecture and two to study engineering. I then got a place at the University of Warwick on a fantastic degree programme studying engineering, design and appropriate technology.
It has since been an absolutely fantastic journey on the whole. With great times and also challenging times, I have come to really appreciate the beauty of engineering. The creativity, the daring to dream, the art of storytelling of conceptual ideas; achieving an exact expression of sequence, relation and logic is what creates the built environment and technologies that shape and influence our daily experiences.
One of the challenges I face on a day to day basis is ensuring that the solution that I come up with meets all the requirements. Finding an engineering solution is not just about the solution but about the varied applicability of the solution. It is also very important to me to be able to demonstrate my expertise. People you work with always require you to demonstrate your expertise in whatever you do, so I am constantly working to ensure that I am able to demonstrate competence and bring something new and creative to the table.
Danielle George MBE FIET: Professor of RF Engineering and Vice Dean Teaching & Learning, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Manchester.
With a mission to inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to play their part at the IET? My first job was at Jodrell Bank Observatory as a junior engineer working on the Planck Spacecraft; a mission to study the remnants of the Big Bang. I loved this work and was asked if I’d like to write research up as a PhD. I remember the day I handed my thesis in and then went for an interview for a lectureship position in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester (quite a day for me!). I absolutely love the diversity my job brings: lecturing students, researching into low noise amplifiers for radio astronomy applications, leadership roles (current as Vice Dean for the Faculty of Science and Engineering), and engaging a wider audience with engineering.
I was always a ‘why’ child but that’s not so different from many children. What I found was that I was always asking ‘how?’, too. That’s the big thing for me: the ‘why’ is the scientist speaking, the ‘how’ is the engineer talking. I have also always loved music and I played the violin and the viola for an orchestra in Newcastle; there are so many similarities between the creative arts and engineering.
2014 was an important year for me both personally and from a career point of view. My husband calls it “the year of the 3 P’s”. I was asked to present the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, I became pregnant (so present the lectures 8.5 months pregnant J) and I was made Professor of RF Engineering.
Helping to inspire the next generation is a key part of my values as an engineer and showing that ‘real’ engineers and scientists fail is so important. Children must be comfortable with failing and we need to support them to adopt the ‘fail fast and learn’ approach so that they want to help solve the global challenges. I am very honoured to be a Trustee of the IET and both excited and nervous, to be the President in our 150th anniversary year.