Tell us about your roles?
I am the Head of Department - Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE, Bristol. This covers Aerospace, Mechanical and Electronic Engineering, Robotics, Mathematics and Statistics. As a department, we have around 140 staff and over 1,000 students across all years of study. My day-to-day role is ensuring that these programmes run smoothly and successfully.
I am a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), I am an active mentor within their programme and mentor young engineers who are working towards their professional registration. I also sit on the board of the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC), which is the representative body of engineering education in the UK. I am involved in The Centre for Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative that will develop and accelerate the adoption and application of world class digital engineering practice for the future generation of engineers and engineering products. And, finally, I am also a trustee of Aerospace Bristol!
What do you enjoy most about your role at UWE?
I feel like I am in a unique position in my role at UWE. I can transform the journey of our student engineers. There are exciting developments in the way engineering is being taught as a discipline, I feel really lucky to be a part of this movement
Prior to this position my role involved working with the architects on the design of our new engineering building. The building was designed to teach in a very different way, we have co-designed the building alongside our new practise-based engineering curriculum. This makes UWE Engineering unique.
I also have a strong team around me, together we are working to deliver the best in class in terms of engineering teaching. We are really innovative in our approach, and you can read all about us on our Engineering Our Future blog.
New Engineering Building at UWE, Bristol.
How did you get into engineering?
I grew up around factories. My dad was a maintenance engineer and I would spend Saturday mornings swinging around in a chair waiting for him to fix machines when they went down. It never seemed to be a career that wasn’t possible for me. My mum and dad always made me believe that anything I wanted to do was possible and I chose to go on to study manufacturing engineering at university. When I started my course, I was disappointed to see that there were only a few girls in the room, even more disappointingly, this is still the case today.
After finishing my degree, I spent ten years in a variety of roles, mainly manufacturing, engineering, procurement and five years in consultancy. I travelled around a lot as a senior consultant and when I came to the point of deciding to have a family, I realised that I had to think about a different career. I decided from there that I wanted to do a PhD and went on to study at the University of Bath. I then went full circle back into academia. It was quite hard to start my career all over again but the years of experience I had before helped accelerate my academic career.
What are the areas that most stand out that you really enjoy in that role?
The proudest moments for me are at the graduation ceremonies, I am lucky enough to be the reader, the one who stands on stage, calls out the students’ names and their degree classification. I get to see the students stood in front of me and I see their parents beam with pride. That for me is why I do it. Every graduation reminds me why we are here and how we are transforming futures.
The other part of my role I enjoy is leading my amazing team; we have achieved some fantastic things in the last year. I have seen a lot of people grow and develop and move into exciting new roles. So, I guess, there are the two parts of my role I enjoy: seeing the young people at the start of their careers and seeing the people around me move on in their careers too.
What advice do you have for people going into engineering?
In terms of a career in Engineering, nobody should be put off. There is no one way to be an engineer. Engineering is about being creative, innovative, and for me, it is all about changing the world for the better. I suppose my goal in my role now is to make that opportunity available to anyone who wants to undertake it. It shouldn’t be an exclusive path.
As for going back into academia, it was the best thing I ever did because now I am in a career that I love, far more than the roles I had before. I did question my decision along the way and asked myself ‘was it worth starting my career all over again in my thirties?’. Now I know that it was the best step I ever took and I would advise people to take a chance!
People often ask ‘what’s it like to be a woman in engineering and a leader?’ but I have never really thought of myself as being any different to the men I work with, I see myself equal. I work hard because I want my children to be proud of what their mum has achieved.
In terms of your area of expertise and your field, have you got any predictions as for what's happening in your area?
In terms of education, I am really pleased to see a positive change in the way we are addressing specific learning difficulties, inclusivity and diversity. Education is becoming more inclusive and allowing and giving everyone equal opportunity to progress and be the best they can be. We have become more aware of how to support people with dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyslexia and give them all the support they need to succeed.
Engineering is also changing. I think the boundaries between the engineering disciplines are breaking down. In the past people would stick within one discipline and wouldn’t cross over, but the rate of change that digital is bringing means that people need to be able to adapt and move into different spheres. Half the work we are doing within DETI is about creating different ways in which people can enter into engineering, enabling people who didn’t choose the right GCSE’s or A Levels or even perhaps the right degree to still get into the industry. It is a really exciting development in the area of digital engineering.
What about in terms of engineering itself, it’s undergoing a rapid transformation in terms of disruptive technology?
If you look at it from the educational side, it’s about the opportunities this will bring. I think the next ten years are going to be absolutely fascinating because creativity is booming and there is an exponential rate of change of technologies and their application. It is exciting to see how this will transform the way we teach engineering.
Lastly, if you got stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take?
My family, I wouldn't want to be without them. I’d also take my Kindle - I can’t live without it. And my iPod - I love music.