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Transform the Future - INWED 2019 #3

Transform the Future - INWED 2019 #3 Here's another inspiring story, written by Carol, one of Hitachi Infocon's Test Engineers: Why I became an engineer I became a Software Developer because I found I had an aptitude for it, and came to love that type of work. I found it very creative and fulfilling - […]

Transform the Future - INWED 2019 #3

Here's another inspiring story, written by Carol, one of Hitachi Infocon's Test Engineers:

Why I became an engineer

I became a Software Developer because I found I had an aptitude for it, and came to love that type of work. I found it very creative and fulfilling - finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable technical problems; designing a system from scratch using structured techniques; building and testing new/changed systems; implementing the end products (in my case, across Europe). I became a specialist in gleaning Customer Requirements and transforming them into Technical Requirements and Specifications for development engineers.

Q: What would you say to someone who thinks engineering is a career better suited to men, not women?

This is such a difficult one. Personally, I think it's the word "Engineer" that is the problem as it has connotations of 'physical' work, the sort which is 'usually done by men'.

Particularly Software Engineering is more about the way a person's mind works, rather than what gender - many men are also not suited to it as they aren't able to 'think' computer programming.

Q: Have you seen an increase in the number of female engineers during your career? If so/if not, why do you think this is?

There has been a small increase in numbers of women, but we are still quite rare, and often 'the only one' in a team/department/company.

I think this is because, in the Western world, we are taught subjects/content that we have to learn (and there is a place for that) but they are prescriptive, rather than focussing on development of inherent skills and talents. Obviously, this is true of most subjects.

Engineering subjects don't seem to describe the sort of person who would enjoy and be good at the role; educators, recruitment agencies and businesses focus on qualifications.

Also, of the (few) women who take/pass an Engineering Degree, it seems less than half go on to get a job using what they've learned. Apparently UK has the lowest percentage of women Engineering Professionals in Europe.

Q: What advice would you give young girls considering a career in engineering?

Ask them what they enjoy doing and what they think their talents are. My overiding job satisfaction criteria include Problem Solving and Creative Thinking (my talents) for problem resolution - both skills required for code development, but also testing, etc.

In considering software/development it would be great to inform girls of the facts that:

  1. a) the first person to publish an algorithm (ie coded instructions) which could be executed by the first modern computer was Ada Lovelace (ie the first (recognised) computer programmer was a woman). Ada saw there was an excellent 'Problem Solving' opportunity using her 'Creative Thinking' when she was introduced to the computer (the Analytical Engine) created by Charles Babbage - she was then 17 years old.
  2. b) There are many different roles that women could go into, based on engineering specialisms, not just 'straight' engineering. EG some of us like validating what is produced meets what was asked for; again, another inherent talent to be nurtured. Others want to be original thinkers and actively create something.

Q: Given the number of female engineers in our industry is relatively low, how best do you think these numbers can be increased?

See above comments. Maybe more of us could visit schools and Universities. Actual jobs/work are probably (I have no idea) far removed from what any student is taught, or any syllabus addresses.

Women returners is a big untapped resource - women have 'career breaks' but the business culture in UK has been very slow to acknowledge and use the potential of bringing these women back to do jobs for which employers say they can't find enough experienced people.

So numbers of women Engineers in jobs probably remain the same as returning women often meet brick walls from both recruitment agencies and businesses themselves. They are told to retrain after any lengthy break, as previous work experience and qualifications are deemed out-of-date, and so go into something else completely. (Bit of personal experience here :-()

Q: What do you think is the greatest challenge female engineers face in the workplace?

Being taken seriously. Even today (this is SO disappointing) we are still something of a novelty.

Q: What positive traits do you think female engineers bring to a workplace?

Women are more open to collaboration with colleagues. Also, we are (generally) better with 'soft' skills (eg communication) and are less afraid of asking questions and admitting when we don't know something.

Q: Do you have a personal ‘hero’ from the world of female engineering? If so, who and why?

(Apart from women like Ada Lovelace). This might surprise you ... Steve Shirley - she set up F International, a company specifically created to help women who worked in Software Development, Software Systems Design and Specification, and Processes get jobs, and be 'seen'. She was frustrated by the constraints just being women imposed, in what was becoming a predominantly male work environment. (Men having been forced to enter offices, more traditionally populated by women, due to the decrease in manufacturing, physical jobs, etc). Don't quote me on that last sentence 🙂

Steve managed to bring awareness to businesses of very capable people (women) out there available to bring experience and professionalism to their companies.

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