In celebration of International Women’s Day, BlackFox Solutions sat down with Claire Anderson to chat about her new Manufacturing Engineer role, why more women should work in Engineering and any advice she has for aspiring female engineers.
So, Claire you studied Engineering at Queens University? Can you tell me what sparked your interest in this industry?
Engineering is something I’ve always been interested in. I always liked Technology, Math and Science focused subjects at school and I was always good at them. I like being able to come up with a solution to something while still being able to be creative. This is where my strength was in school. I also was massively influenced through my upbringing; my dad does plenty of engineering work and this was always something I wanted to get involved in. I never really thought twice about it, it has always been something I’ve wanted to do.
Can you describe the moment it was the career you wanted to pursue?
The day I went to Queens University open night, I went three years in a row! I remember each time I went I would just think to myself ‘wow, I love this. I want to be a part of this industry,’ I loved hearing about the course and opportunities there are for women wanting to get into engineering. I think this is the problem with women in engineering, that they don’t realise the number of different paths they can go down. When I tell people I’m an engineer some automatically ask me to fix their car or make another assumption and I explain that’s not what I do, I feel more people should be aware of the many different roles there are available.
Can you explain your role?
My role isn’t what I had originally planned which was medical engineering, that’s what most of my university modules were focused on. I worked on many manufacturing projects during my placement years and then realised that I wanted to go down the manufacturing and continuous improvement direction.
Describe a typical working day for you.
It’s difficult to do this because every day is completely different, and many engineer jobs are like this. You work on a project with a team and once it is finished, you move straight onto the next one. Something I must do every day is check and compare the machines, analysing their performance and figuring out why some aren’t performing well. I learn something new every day which I like, as I feel as though I’m always progressing and improving.
What has your experience been like being a woman in the Engineering industry?
It was intimidating starting my university course that had something around 196 males and 9 females, but I am happy to say that I feel accepted being a woman in this industry. There were times I had to try harder to get my voice heard but overall every workplace has accepted me. I’m aware that some women have shared stories where they’ve felt like an outcast in a male dominated company or found it harder to be accepted, but for me it has been good. This may be because people have taken more notice of the issue and are trying harder to help women progress in the industry.
Why do you think it is important for more people to work in engineering?
Firstly, if there are no women working in engineering it will become a completely male dominated industry. We need women to be role models for younger girls and encourage them to follow this career path if it’s what they want. Like most workplaces, engineering companies need diverse teams to help them progress in every aspect if a project. Females bring in different perspectives and ideas than males and this allows them to bounce ideas off each other and cover everything. I feel having women in engineering removes the stereotype people have of engineers, when I search for images online the first to appear are pictures of nerdy men all sitting at a computer in a dark room and there is such a diverse amount around the world, and I want people to become more aware of this. I can notice a different already in the amount of female’s choosing this career, more media coverage around this and universities posting about their female engineering students.
What would your advice be to any women out there wanting to get into engineering?
My advice would be to go for it, no matter what anyone says! If you are interested and want to pursue it then do it. I’ve had no issues being a female and I hope that many other women have the positive experience I’ve had. We need to encourage more women to realise that they can do anything they want and shouldn’t let fear or intimidation get in the way and I feel International Women’s Day helps this happen!