Dr Laura Baker
Technical Manager, Through Process Optimisation
Tata Steel, Strip Products UK
I have been driven, from a young age, by a desire to understand how things work. My favourite childhood TV programme was Playschool, not for the stories that were told, but because when we went through the square, round or arched window there was a factory on the other side, making stuff. So, maybe it's no surprise that I chose Engineering (specifically Materials Engineering) when I went to study at Swansea University in 1993. An EngD in Steel Technology followed, which then naturally led to a career in Tata Steel (British Steel as it was at the time). I now work as a Senior Manager in the Tata Steel organisation, focussing on Technical and Quality issues, but have also had roles in Customer Support, Product Development, Supply Chain and Operations. Working in the Steel Industry has it's challenges, but it's difficult not to be excited by the sheer scale of the operations, from 300t ladles of molten steel to 24 wagon trains carrying steel coils destined for all parts of the UK and Europe. If you're looking for big stuff, the Steel Industry is a great place to be. How does a woman fare in this environment? Well of course, it depends on the woman. Within Tata Steel, there are women working at all levels of the organisation and in all areas of the business. Women bring a different set of skills to business that are now being recognised and promoted in many Industries, including steel and there has never been a better time for high calibre women from STEMM backgrounds to make an impact in the so called male dominated environments.
Role: Graduate Civil Engineer (Infrastructure Sector)
Previous employment: CH2M HILL
Hi my name is Jessica and I graduated from Swansea University with an MEng in Civil Engineering. I have been working in the engineering industry for almost 2 years and have had a range of exposure to projects and different types of work too. I have come to learn so many new skills, and have developed a diverse outlook on problem solving and implementing solutions.
I decided to pursue engineering as a career because I wanted to be able to look at a bridge or building and say ‘I was part of that’. The thought of being able to transform a drawing into a real life structure is just crazy. As an engineer you are able to contribute to the design and construction of a hospital where people can be treated, or schools where children have somewhere to be educated; that’s what an individual can offer in the engineering industry.
I firmly believe that the engineering industry is for anyone and has so much to offer for anyone’s career path and personal development. I personally feel it is very important for girls to not be afraid of the word ‘engineering’, because girls can bring diversity to the industry.
Role: Graduate Engineer
Hi my name is Christina Kio. During my A-levels, I chose to study Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. I chose numerical subjects because I liked having only 1 correct answer. I then went onto study BEng and MSc Civil Engineering at Swansea University.
I got a job as a Graduate Design Engineer at Skanska in Pencoed, here I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects during my time here, from sewage treatment works to highway foundations. I have worked here for over 2 years and have been supported to being a STEM ambassador. I am currently on secondment to Crossrail’s Paddington station, where my role is a site engineer. Here I am part of the base slab construction team which is overseeing the construction of the platforms and tracks.
As a female in the construction industry, I feel I received more negativity before I joined the industry than being in the industry. My hope for the future females in engineering is that when a 14 year old girl announce that she wants to become an engineer, no one says it’s a male dominated subject, but supports her in anyway possible.
Although I decided to become an engineer at the age of 9, I became unsure of my university subject choice at 17, so was encouraged by my maths tutor to attend a Girls in Engineering taster workshop in Queen Mary University. I loved every minute of it and returned home certain that I was to become an Engineer.
Last year I organised a STEM event attended by over forty 14-15 years old pupils in South Wales. This event was to show pupils the wide variety of engineering disciplines available. From the pupils’ feedback and endless curiosity questions, the event was a success and due to be repeated this year. This event had only 2 female pupils were, so I will be including a minimum female criteria for the next set of invitations.
Sharon Bishop graduated in BEng Materials Engineering in 1998, and then completed her MRes in 1999.
Why did you decide to study at Swansea University?
It was a combination of factors – Swansea was one of the best places in the country to study this course, and it’s also where my Dad was from and I had family there, so I’ve always known and loved the area. The fantastic beach location was a big plus too!
What did you enjoy most about your course at Swansea?
The combination of study and practical work – you get to use both your brain and your hands.
What are you doing now career-wise?
I am Director of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, which is one of four festivals organised by a charity called Cheltenham Festivals (the others are Jazz, classical Music and Literature). The Science Festival happens over six days in June. This year we issued 39,000 tickets for talks, debates, shows, comedy, family events, interactive exhibitions, an extensive schools programme and much more. I also oversee a competition called FameLab, which aims to discover and develop scientists and engineers who have a talent for communicating their research with the public. We started the competition in the UK in 2005, and now it runs in 18 other countries around the world through partnerships with the British Council and with NASA in the USA.
How has Swansea University and your course helped you with your chosen career path?
The course gave me an understanding of how science works and how universities work, which is vitally important to my current role because I work closely with a lot of researchers and research funders. It also gave me a passion for engineering that I have never lost, and I love being able to share that with thousands of other people through the festival programme.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
My working year revolves around six days in June, so there are some big pressure points with tight deadlines, long hours and lots of hard work. Fundraising is also a challenge – we have to raise large sums to make sure the festival can continue its charitable work and develop year on year, and that certainly has its challenges in the current economic climate
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
There are so many rewarding parts! It’s a huge team effort and everyone is passionate about what they do, and I love working in such a dynamic environment. I also work with scientists and engineers who are at the frontline of research – everything from the neuroscience of mental illness to 3D printing technology – so I get to learn about the most amazing things and meet some fascinating people.