[Interview - Part 1] Inspiring Future Engineers - Eve McGlynn

Posted 25/3/2019 by Georgina Deas

In 2018, we partnered with the UK Electronics Skills Foundation, a charity that operates collaboratively with major companies, leading universities and other organisations to tackle the skills shortage in the Electronics sector. We are passionate about supporting women in STEM and for this reason, have committed to supporting the UKESF to provide training and advice to help women transition into the world of graduate employment and to be successful in the Electronics sector.

Through our partnership with the UKESF, we sponsored three female students to attend the WES Student Conference in 2018 and recently caught up with the students to find out their thoughts about the event, gender diversity in the Electronics industry and their future career plans.

First up in this mini-series, we’re chatting to Masters of Engineering student, Eve McGlynn.

 

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you study?

My name is Eve McGlynn, I'm in my final year of an MEng degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering at Glasgow University.

 

You went to the WES Student Conference this year, and the theme was building sustainable cities and communities, could you tell us a bit more about that?

There were various speakers on all sorts of different topics; some were more technically minded, some were lectures at universities, but many were industry experts. Some of them, the ones that I actually found most interesting, were engineers. So, they were all coming at it from all different walks of life. There was one woman who worked for Bosch, who was previously a lawyer. There was one woman who spoke to us about city planning. The theme was all about all the different aspects of a community that goes into making it sustainable. That can be transport, infrastructure, the design of public spaces and housing and the balance between work and play, how it all goes into creating a community.

 

Did you have a favourite guest speaker?

My favourite guest speaker was a city planner. Her name was Belinda McKay, she works for Mott McDonald. She was telling us that at university she had written her thesis on sustainability and looking at the difference between estates that had been master planned, she called it, and suburbs that had just grown organically. She aimed to compare the two of them to see what is best to create a sustainable community.

With the master planned estate, she was talking about how the way in which they had been built and the way which they had been planned, hadn't really accounted for the way that people actually live their lives. I thought it was very interesting that engineering companies don't always tend to think about all the different applications and all the different people that they would need to involve. I really enjoyed finding out about the different aspects (that you might not straight away think of) that must be involved in these big projects to be successful.

 

Why do you think events like the WES conference are important for encouraging women into STEM careers?

I think, something that I was astounded by when I first arrived, was the number of women engineers there. I'm used to going into university and maybe being the only girl in the lecture theatre or one of only a few and although I know there are lots of women in engineering at all different levels, that was the first time I'd been in a room with so many successful women so that was really empowering.

Student conferences, in general, are really important because you get a sense of where your career is heading. You can look at these people who are experts and think "Okay, that's the sort of thing I want to be doing in a few years". Specifically, with the WES Student Conference, there was a really different vibe to student conferences that I've been at before. It felt like more of a community even though I didn't really know anyone going in, I felt like I could talk to people because we had these shared experiences.

 

Do you know where you'd like your career to go?

Currently, I'm looking at PhD applications. I would like to focus on academia at least for the next few years. I think that is the best option for me right now because I really enjoy learning. I also want to be as qualified as possible before I join the industry, and I think a lot of young people have self-doubt. This is something that was actually spoken about at the WES Conference dinner on the Friday night, it's important to consider self belief. You have a lot of skills as an engineer and as a student coming up through university, but that's something I think a lot of people, me included, have to really work on. Being able to say "Yes, these are my skills and this is what I'm good at" is so important, and I feel like being more qualified before I joined industry is going to help with that.

 

Who or what inspired you to go into Electronics?

Originally, I quite fancied biomedical engineering because I saw a documentary about the Berlin Heart, which was effectively a mechanical device that was acting as a human heart. When I went to open days at universities, I found in some cases biomedical engineering wasn't as well established. I went to a talk at Glasgow University with Scott Roy, Professor of Engineering, and he gave us an amazing talk about how Electronics was like being someone in the gold rush. He described it as taking advantage of the market that is expanding and he just painted a really great picture of Electronics. I think as someone who didn't really have much interest in Electronics before the talk, the way he described it made it sound quite exciting and accessible.

 

What advice would you give to women and girls trying to get into the technology industry?

I think it's definitely important to try and find role models. I know that in a male-dominated sector, like engineering, when you do find a woman in industry, for example, who might be a project supervisor or a lecturer, it really helps just to know and see someone every day or be aware that they're working in the industry because it helps you to realise that you can achieve that too. It's also important to have someone to ask advice.

Although I wouldn't say that I really fulfil that role for anyone, I have spoken to a lot of high school students about their career prospects.

Electronics isn't something that a lot of young women consider. So I think it's important to do your research and not to be to be put off by not being part of the boys’ club. A lot of people on the courses say "I grew up building Lego", "I grew up building this and that, and playing with circuits" but I think for a lot of girls, we don't always have that opportunity as children. You could think
“Electronics isn't for me, because I haven't had a passion for all my life” but a lot of the time that's because girls have been excluded from that when they were younger. It's very important not to be daunted by that and just to think "If I am someone who is interested in it, if I am intelligent and hardworking, then I can definitely do it".

 

What advice would you give to the industry to help increase the number of women and girls?

I think, especially for younger children, outreach is really important. With my sponsoring company, I've participated in some volunteering and things like that. We had a group of primary school children into the company for a workshop and the girls were very engaged. When you give girls the opportunity to participate, they enjoy it too. I think most children would be interested because it's hands-on experience and fun. I think it is the responsibility of the industry to try and encourage the next generation of engineers, whatever gender they are, but a special effort needs to be made with young women. I also think networks can be helpful in companies, although that's not something that I've personally experienced. You can have all different networks for all different types of things but one that is quite prevalent in industry as women's networks in engineering. I think if things like that were better advertised then that would be really helpful.

 

Anything else?

The key thing I took away from the WES Conference was being able to speak to lots of young women and women in industry and everyone I spoke to, were incredibly intelligent, incredibly interesting people. It was easier to make connections because we had this shared experience, which is not something I've had before and I'm really grateful for the opportunity to go along to the WES Conference. The range of workshops at the event were quite unique. The buzzwords of the conference seemed to be diversity and inclusion, something that really impressed me was the diversity of the student delegates and the fact that a lot of the questions, and the question and answer sessions, were to do with how are you as someone in industry or how are you as a member of WES going to encourage diversity in the future, and I think for the most part that really got people thinking. It was great to see people challenging the current environment.

 

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. We find technical leaders for the 'Emerging and Enabling' and 'Deep Technology' industries. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0131 510 8150

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