[Interview - Part 3] Inspiring Future Engineers - Lauren Page

Posted 23/4/2019 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.

 

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

Read [Interview - Part 2] Inspiring Future Engineers - Andie Bejarano Carbo

 

Last up in our mini-series, we're chatting to Lauren Page, Electronic Engineering student at the University of Surrey.

 

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

My name is Lauren Page, I am studying Electronic Engineering at the University of Surrey, and I'm the first person in my family to go to university. I'd had an interest in maths and science from a young age and from talking to teachers at school, and from getting involved in outreach activities and workshops that the university ran, I settled on engineering as a career pathway. It's something that I'm really passionate about now and I really love my degree.

 

This year’s theme at WES conference was building sustainable cities and communities, could you tell us a bit more about this?

Building sustainable cities and communities was the focus of the conference. I think, especially within the current market it's very important for us to consider sustainability and environmental impacts within the engineering work that we do. We need to support engineers to work on projects that make things better for the future, rather than leaving the next generation with some sort of impact of the work we've done. Several of the speakers at the conference discussed things like transport infrastructure, so how we can try and make our cities and communities better connected and how connectivity benefits everybody. There were also speakers from the renewable power sector talking about renewables, whether that's turbines, whether that's utilising heat and by-products from other systems, and how we can use them to create a more inclusive engineering community.

 

Did you have a favourite guest speaker? If so, who and why?

Hayley Oakes, who is a marine engineer and project manager within the offshore wind industry. She is extremely passionate about STEM outreach and supporting other women in the industry. Hayley was talking about insecurities and vulnerabilities surrounding engineering careers. I think especially in a very male-lead environment, there's sometimes an opinion that discussing your insecurities and vulnerabilities is less socially acceptable. She was having a discussion of the kind of ups and downs that come with having a career in general, especially within engineering and I found the speech she gave really inspiring; a lot of us got quite emotional about it. I think she was my favourite speaker because of her honesty and her vulnerability. Hearing her speak about her career experiences and the work that she does to encourage more people into engineering is definitely something that's given me a lot to think about, for example what I value about being an engineer, rather than just my technical ability.

 

 

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

I think it's important, primarily, because it just puts you in a room full of other people like yourself. Especially within engineering, it can sometimes feel a little isolating, or can feel like you walk into a room and there's not that sense of belonging, because you can't see people who represent you in 5 years’ time, in 10 years’ time, or 15 years’ time. Events like the WES Conference not only provide a space for people to discuss those kinds of questions or concerns, or even their aspirations but it also puts you in contact with so many wonderful role models and people who represent this side of engineering that isn’t always as publicised. You hear a lot about why we need more women in engineering or why we need more girls studying physics, but sometimes that narrative overshadows what those women who are currently in engineering are actually achieving and doing. So, it's wonderful to come to events, like the WES Conference, where you not only talk about the fact that we need more women but also you celebrate the wonderful women that we do have in our industry. I think sometimes when you say you're an engineer, people are so busy being like "Oh, wow, you're a woman in engineering. Oh, good for you. That's great." These people don't say, well what do you actually do?

I think it can be difficult to not see the people who are different in a workplace as the diversity quota, if you like, of that workplace. I think if you're the only woman or you're the only person from a minority background, or the only physically disabled person, it can be very easy for people to latch onto what is different about you, rather than what's the same about you. I think, once you recognise this person does fit into this group, great. That's, you know, that's your first five minutes of observation. Anything past that should really be asking what do they bring to this environment? What can we celebrate about them as well?

 

Do you know where you’d like your career to go? How do you make this happen?

I spent the last year, my placement year, working with my sponsor company, Renesas. I worked as a Design Engineer during that year. I went from getting a client brief, all the way through to testing, prototyping and manufacturing of final products. I really enjoy getting to be part of that design process, getting to be involved in something that was that customer focused and led, so I'm looking to go into design careers in the future. As someone who hasn't got parental or family experience of engineering, I decided that I was going to apply for another scheme that the UKESF runs, which was the Skills 4 UK Scholar’s Award. It's open to all their final-year female undergraduate students and offers career development and planning workshops throughout the year.

I was fortunate enough to win that in 2018. That means that even though I've got an idea where I'd like to go career wise, I’ll receive support with all the gaps I face, like what are the stepping stones to get from where I am to where I'd like to be. Also, by attending events like the WES Conference, or an event that happened on campus at my university, I can kind of build-up networks and connections that might show me other jobs, that I am not even aware of now, that are a better fit for me.

 

 

Who or what inspired you to go into Electronics?

I came across engineering at first, because it was a nice marriage of all of the practical parts of maths and science subjects that I enjoyed. The University of Surrey runs a summer school program, where you can go and stay on campus for a week and have this kind of student experience; Monday to Friday you study a different engineering discipline every day. We had mechanical engineer on the Monday, chemical on the Tuesday and so on. When we had electronic engineering midweek, there was a PhD student there and just the way that he explained Electronics to me clicked, and I thought that's how my brain works! I didn't know this would be what I wanted to do but it just clicked so quickly. And I thought, this is kind of something I can imagine myself being a part of, it's something that interested me and I think it was that session with him, where he explained what it meant to him and I aligned so much with the values and the content behind it; I think that was what really inspired me.

 

 

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

I think one piece of advice you always give is don't be afraid to ask for help. No one is expecting any less of you. Sometimes people just don't know what to expect of you because you're different from what they know. So many male colleagues or my peers at university are so receptive, are so understanding and really want to help. I think the other piece of advice is never to apologise for yourself, never apologise for being a woman in your workplace. Don't apologise for being different. See it as an opportunity for everyone else to learn and help you celebrate the differences you can bring to an environment.

 

What advice would you give to the industry to help increase the number of Women and Girls in the industry?

Keep talking to the women you've got in the industry. I think so often, there has been, in the past, women's diversity boards with no women on them. There have been recruitment panels with no women on them. I think until you make it clear that women are welcome at all stages of your inclusivity and diversity panels, it's hard for that message to be taken seriously. There are women in the industry, they are a wonderful resource for you to work out what obstacles are there, what's great and should be celebrated. I think if you engage with the women who are there, you have the resources to listen, to support them and to make things better for the future.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I'm just so grateful that you get the opportunity to go and do things really; I think I just appreciate so much that things like this are funded and are run; and that people recognise that putting all these people together in the same room is a positive thing and is worth the time and effort that it takes.

 

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

Read [Interview - Part 2] Inspiring Future Engineers - Andie Bejarano Carbo

 

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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