[Interview - Part 2] - Female Engineers, Transforming the future – Megan Goodsall

Posted 14/1/2020 by Benet Hanley

Continuing our dedication to supporting women in STEM we partnered with the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) to send seven female students to attend the WES Student Conference in November 2019, up from three last year. We recently caught up with some of the students to find out their thoughts on various issues ranging from the WES Student Conference, gender diversity in the electronics industry to what excites them about the UK tech industry in general.

Up next in this mini-series, we are chatting with Megan Goodsall, Electrical and Electronic Engineering student at the University of Southampton.

Hi Megan, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and the course you're studying?

I'm in my third year studying electrical and electronics engineering at the University of Southampton. Basically, for me, I've always loved math and the logical side of thinking and always knew I sort of had interest in that field. I was in a situation where I enjoyed economics and the business side of things, but I also enjoyed the physics and the math side as well. So I kind of feel that engineering further down the line has given me the options to combine both. I think with all of engineering design it's not going to work if you don't know how the market works.

At the moment, as part of my Master's course for us to be affiliated, we have to do a business law management module, which I found covers what I've already done in economics and business studies.

Additionally, I get annoyed by the fact that there aren’t many women in it, and I want to prove the point that there's no reason we can't do it. There’s also the stigma that it's a guy's job; I completely disagree with that!

 

Okay, so you're a trailblazer and an evangelist?

Yeah!

 

Who or what inspired you to go into electronics? I know it wasn't just about the fact that you thought there's an under-representation, so you are going to put your cape on and prove the world wrong. What was it?

We had someone come in to speak to us when we were in high school and she's been really successful. Engineering wasn't the route she had initially wanted to go down but she ended up going down the engineering route. What she achieved from that just really made me think that there are lots of opportunities from this and I felt that because obviously when you're 17 or 18, it's quite daunting to think about what you want to do for the next 40 years. So I thought - I know I like this. I love problem-solving. I like this aspect of things, so do a degree in engineering and see where it takes me.

Also, my physics teacher, she was encouraging and talked about engineering quite a lot. And I had the opportunity in the sixth form to apply for the Arkwright scholarship.


Do you have a plan now where you'd like your career to go, or is it still too early?

Yes, I know I want to be really successful in the field I'm going into, and I set myself very high expectations. So for me, the end goal will be to become a chartered engineer; because I feel like that's the next level for me. I don't know whether I would do a Ph.D., purely because I prefer being in the work environment rather than the study environment. But definitely, I want to do chartered engineer, and then my end goal is probably to be a project manager like within an engineering team. So I would have the engineering knowledge, but that wouldn't necessarily be the main thing I’m focusing on, because it'd be more of the management of the team side of things.

Interesting that you say that. I spoke to quite a number of Ph.D. students recently and asked them why they chose a Ph.D. A lot of them weren't particularly very convincing about why they choose it and employers don’t like that. They want you to have clear ideas about what you're doing, what the direction is, and the thinking behind it.

Exactly, which is why I felt that going into the workplace, gaining experience, and finding out what I like, then obviously I’ll be able to establish that I've got a very strong passion for a particular field and then maybe I can do a Ph.D.


So you went to the WES student conference this year, and the theme was “transform the future.” Tell me a bit about your experience going there and what you took away from it?

Personally, the most interesting talk to me was about the self-driving cars by Dr. Valentina Donzella, because I'm quite apprehensive about it. I know it's the way forward; however, I feel  because it's so new, there are a lot of tests that need to be done, because there is a lot of hacking still. It's done outside, so the idea that your whole car could be taken over is just quite daunting.

I'm not sure I would trust that. We looked at different aspects when discussing whether we agreed or were comfortable with the technology, and the areas we don’t agree with. There was a group split discussion about that, and it was just interesting to see different sides of the argument.

I think that’s interesting because of the Hackability. If it's your toaster, then okay, that's a problem, but if it's a car, then it becomes a weapon, very scary.


Was she your favorite speaker as well?

Yes, in terms of group discussion, that was my best one, but then personally, I preferred the CPD workshop on the second day, mainly because it was more interactive, and we chose which work we wanted to do. I did leader development and then professional registration because I want to become a chartered engineer I wanted to know about the step I need to go after that stage.

The professional registration was a lot of what I already knew, but it was refreshing and reminded me of what the steps are. Just sort of knowing what I need to do first to become a chartered engineer, like registering my CPD hours and that sort of thing. And then for the leadership development, that was a little about how you can lead a team better, how you can present yourself.

It was really motivational and really helpful to see how just by changing the way you are presented or the way you say things, it can come across so differently to the audience. I found that very helpful.


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

It’s an opportunity to meet like-minded people, because of what it takes to be a girl in engineering. In most situations, I’m walking to my class, and there might be three other girls. And if I'm in a group project, I'll be the only girl in the group the majority of the time. So it was very nice to see other female students who have the same interests as me, and we can relate to each other because we know what it's like being in a room of all guys. It's just nice to see different people's experiences with that as well, and there’s also the networking side of it. I met a lot of new people I now call my friends and that we still talk on the group chat.


That's fantastic; it sounds like it really can help build up confidence and also remove that feeling of isolation.

Yes, exactly.


Okay, so think about the tech industry, what excites you about the UK tech industry?

We’ve got a lot of possibilities, and obviously, we don't know exactly what routes we are going down, but we have got options. I did an internship with Sky in the summer looking at new innovation ideas, and that was just one side of how, as a country, we're going forward. How we can make the user experience better and how we can make the general life of the public a lot easier.


You've been on a bit of exploration. You've had the placement at Sky, and you've been at the WES Conference, you're starting to think about a career. What have you learned about the tech industry throughout your recent exposure to the industry that was new or a surprise to you?

So actually I was speaking to someone yesterday. She graduated and now works as a design engineer with an oil company. She was saying that when in their ships rather than stopping drilling, they just burned the fuel because it’s cheaper to do that than it is to stop drilling and start again. I feel that the engineering side of that is very unethical and it's not good for the environment at all. There's just how we can tackle that going forward, like could it be done electronically, so that it happens in quick reaction time or something like that.

Also, with mobile phones - they're always being updated with new technology like face facial recognition technology. I find it interesting to see just how all those interfaces work.


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

Encourage it from a young age because when you're younger, you have your mindset on like oh yeah, I'm going to be a firefighter, even be a doctor and that sort of thing. We need to get that with engineering. At the moment I'm doing this invent plus scheme, which is that we go into primary schools and do a group project. Each session will be based on a particular engineering sector. Our first one will be on civil engineering. We're looking at things like bridges and their structural designs. It’s primary school care, so we are using spaghetti and marshmallows to make a bridge. This will enable the students to understand the basic principles of how structures work, and by doing that, we are trying to get them involved.

 It’s interesting that it's a primary school level that you're talking about because there's significant research that shows that even from the age of six or seven, girls and boys have started to determine separate pathways like what's right for girls to do, and what is right for boys. So we have to continue to encourage people to be more open-minded and not go down singular routes.


So you're on the UKESF scholarship program. What has that meant for you? What impact has that had for you?

It's given me a big boost of confidence in terms of what I can do, and that it’s possible to achieve what I want to achieve in the end. Because obviously, it can be quite daunting, and I'm the type of person who won't believe they can do it until they've got something right, so it provided a bit of reassurance. Also, the fact that companies put so much trust in what we do, it's just nice to see that natural value manifesting.

It sounds like there’s a lot of what we can do with the UKESF and other programs to support people and give them the confidence to be all they can be. 


Is there anything else that you want to throw in? Any thoughts or ideas that you would want to share with us?

Yes, on the placement side of things, the companies want you to get the most out of it. When I went there the first day, and they posted me to an assessing project. I was apprehensive and unsure where to start. When I broke it down, I realised it comes down to fundamental engineering principles such as your transistors and capacitors. 

It’s at that level and just being worked up to a high level. I feel there is a lot we have to learn, and we are the next generation, so they want us to be able to carry on their legacy. So them passing on their skills and their knowledge to us is fundamental for us achieving something in the future.


It sounds like you're gaining a lot, and it also seems that companies are gaining a more evolved engineer when they're coming into the marketplace.

Yeah!

 

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. We find technical leaders for the emerging and enabling technology industries. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, software and IoT in Scotland and the UK. Check out our blog page for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on + 44 131 510 8150

Comments

I definitely agree that we need to engage with Primary school children to get them interested in engineering. They all have access to some sort of electronic device (phone, tablet, etc) and probably don't realise that they are designed by engineers.
Posted on January 16, 2020 by Mairi Torrie

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