Engineering Plant Support Team Leader, Cummins
Tanith Wilkinson overcame various obstacles on her route to a STEM career. Now, she wants to encourage other women into the industry.
When she was six, Tanith Wilkinson decided that she wanted to be an engineer. “My parents encouraged me to believe that I could be whatever I wanted to be,” she says. “As a kid, I loved LEGO and hands-on activities and games. Plus, my dad worked in manufacturing, and I thought that was interesting and exciting. Engineering has been a constant in my life.”
Overcoming obstacles in engineering journey
There were barriers in her way, though. First, Wilkinson wasn’t the best at maths and physics, and was later diagnosed with dyslexia; but her determination never wavered. “I’m a logical thinker,” she says. “Once I had the right support, my grades quickly improved.”
Second, at school, Wilkinson was constantly told that engineering wasn’t a suitable career for women. “But that just motivated me even more,” she laughs. She went on to study Mechanical Engineering at university and now works for global engineering company Cummins as Engineering Plant Support Team Leader.
Maximising career and personal development opportunities
While studying for her degree, Wilkinson secured a placement year at Cummins, working in engineering test operations. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. “I worked hard and was given a lot of responsibility.”
When it comes to career progression, Wilkinson’s advice is to seize any opportunities that come your way. “Be proactive,” she says. “This is a huge company, and engineering is such a broad field that you can go wherever you want.”
In addition to entry level careers, Cummins also supports returners through RePower — a six-month paid returnship targeting people who have been out of the workforce for at least two years. “It’s important to give women opportunities at different stages of their careers,” says Wilkinson.
Engineering is such a broad field that
you can go wherever you want.
In terms of qualifications and personal development, Wilkinson is now studying part-time for a master’s degree in advanced manufacturing engineering with management; she’s been encouraged to get involved in various ‘extracurricular’ diversity and inclusion initiatives. “It’s so fulfilling and has given me the chance to network globally,” she says.
In the past, Wilkinson has taken up a leadership opportunity for International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), and this year will be celebrating it on 23 June 2023.
Wilkinson hopes that there will be more female engineers in the coming years. “We have to break the stereotype and show that engineering is a viable and exciting career for women,” she says. “We think differently and bring a lot to the table.”