• Amanda, Knowledge Engineer at AWE
  • Rebecca, Mechanical Engineer at AWE

Amanda, a Knowledge Engineer at AWE talks about how she followed her passion and interests, broke down stereotypes and found an exciting career in STEM.

I always had an enquiring mind as a child. My father had a range of interests and I naturally developed a curiosity for them too; cars, trains, aircraft, astronomy and art. He was also an engineer, having trained as a machinist and toolmaker.

After leaving sixth form college with four A Levels, my interest in cars first led me to the motor industry and then to motor sport. However, this was at a time when a woman making a technical career in a perceived ‘men only’ environment was as good as non-existent!

I moved into hands-on scientific research in the dairy industry, and as a mature student began a self-funded part-time degree in physics at University College London. On the strength of my studies alone, I was offered a role at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) – the UKs national measurement standards laboratory - in London, where I spent ten years in various research and measurement areas including engineering metrology and nuclear material physics.

After I was made redundant I applied to AWE and have worked here for five years.

I work with the Warhead Knowledge Team, in Engineering Capability. Using my knowledge of physics and engineering I scope, review, collate, summarise and publish web based products, to ensure that AWE can retain, maintain and develop its capability to deliver warhead systems and maintain Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD). Part of my role also includes delivering tours of the Educational Collection. I have also been provisionally marked for a part-time secondment in metallurgy.

The most enjoyable part of my role is being able to access a very broad base of people and nuclear deterrent knowledge. There aren’t many roles at AWE where you get to acquire such a diverse range of technical information."

Unfortunately there are still so few females in the STEM industry.  Regrettably, gender-stereotyping of girls and boys begins from the moment they are born. Research shows that children left to their own preferences (uninfluenced by adults), will result in them choosing toys or activities they find interesting, and which stimulates their mind and creativity. Gender barriers will only be broken down if children are encouraged in what they find interesting, without the influence of gender-stereotyping. Parents therefore also need to be educated to avoid pushing children into the perceived gender-moulds of ‘girls do this’ and ‘boys do that’.

The advice I would give to women who want a career in STEM would be to “Be yourself”. Don’t let anyone (parents, friends, peers, teachers, etc.) put you off, or try to steer you away from doing anything technical or scientific if that’s what interests you. Peer pressure is at its worst from the ages of 11 to 16, but your career choice is going to be long term, so stick with what YOU enjoy, and DON’T follow the herd!

The best thing about my job is expressing science and engineering in a creative way. People don’t usually consider science or engineering as being related to anything artistic.

Rebecca, a Mechanical Engineer at AWE talks about ignoring the misconceptions of engineering and the  importance of diversity and inclusion within in STEM industries.

I joined the graduate programme at AWE 2 ½ years ago, following a masters in Mechanical Engineering

During the graduate programme I moved around the organisation doing placements in Systems, Non-Destructive Testing, Surety and a secondment at the Foreign Office. I liked having the chance to find out about each area and what kind of work I enjoyed before deciding what to do permanently. I have now settled in the surety team doing research and development.

The thing I enjoy most about my job is the practical aspect; I often spend time in the lab as well as time doing design work on a computer (using CAD). I also enjoy the quick pace of research and development. The best thing about my job is the uniqueness of the work I’m doing and the great team I work with.

International Women in Engineering Day highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion within in STEM industries. I think the perception of engineering needs to change. A lot of people in the UK think engineering is just a guy under a car covered in oil! Not a lot of people know that engineering is a massive field covering civil, electronic, mechanical, electrical, and chemical. I think the problem is parents aren’t aware what engineering is and so can’t sell it as a career to their children.

Another issue is the perceived thinking that maths and physics is a boy’s subject and it isn’t cool for girls to be good at it –although exam scores disagree with this!

The advice I’d give to someone who would like a career in STEM would be to ignore the misconceptions of anyone around you who thinks engineering isn’t appropriate for females- rise above them and know you’ll be going into a career that benefits society and helps people.

Also remember that even if you go to university and study engineering it isn’t a life commitment to then work as an engineer. An engineering degree opens a lot of doors for various careers. This means that as a society we’ll be more educated about what an engineer is and in the long run have more people going into it as a career.

 

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If you want to work in a unique and innovative environment, then AWE could be the perfect place for you – whether you are a scientist, an engineer, a mechanic or a business professional. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, we’re always looking for high quality candidates.

Website: www.awe.co.uk/careers/