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International Women in Engineering Day


Christina Wagstaff

Led by the Women’s Engineering Society, today we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED20) on 23 June. INWED is an international awareness day to support, inspire, and raise the profile of women in engineering.

With just 12% of engineering roles in the UK filled by women, lower than the US (13%2) and Australia (14%3). One of the ways we are helping to address the gender imbalance and the STEM skills gap is by participating in campaigns such as INWED to raise awareness amongst young people, parents and teachers of the wide range of rewarding engineering careers, and support female engineers to thrive in their current engineering career.

“Shape the World” is the theme for 2020 and at QinetiQ our engineers use their technical expertise together with colleagues every day to help our customers create, test and use defence and security capabilities in many applications – from satellites to cyber security, naval architecture, laser technologies, robotics and many more.

Women (and men) all over the globe can help to raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession for all and this year we are holding virtual events in Australia, the UK and the US for children of our employees and partner schools. They will hear from a number of female engineer role model panellists about their current jobs, how they got into engineering, advice for young people, followed by Q&A from the children.

We have also interviewed a number of our female engineers by video and written career profiles to share just some of those rewarding careers at QinetiQ, asking them to share their experiences, motivations and advice for young people.

Meet some of our Engineers

Charlotte Garcia, Team Leader Operational Analysis & Strategic Consulting

Charlotte GarciaI live in Casnewydd, work in Bristol but I'm originally from the Midlands. I first came to Wales when I studied Business Studies with Italian at Aberystwyth University. I had various temporary office jobs during the summers and this continued after I graduated while I initially looked for a way into a career in international marketing. It turns out that not getting the job I thought I wanted was a fantastic eventuality because now I have a job that gives me a great sense of satisfaction. This career path offered me a different international opportunity, where I lived and worked in Germany as well as in France and since joining QinetiQ, I have also worked in Australia. What kind of things do you do at work?
I am the Operational Analysis & Strategic Consulting Team Leader for a team of eight but mostly work embedded within a customer team, Equip & Support the Aircrew, at MOD Abbey Wood. Their remit is everything that goes on the man in the Air Domain (e.g. pilot), be it boots, life preservers, helmets or even their underwear! I do a variety of tasks from managing their website, which ensures access to the latest technical publications, to customer liaison, such as capturing requirements for the independent testing of Aircrew Equipment Assemblies and Survival Equipment (AEA & SE) kit. The AEA & SE kit reduces the risk to life and the publications are used by maintainers of that equipment to make sure it is in working order.  

In my role at QinetiQ, I #ShapetheWorld by supporting the team I lead to develop their own career paths and by supporting my customer to keep our country’s aircrew safe.

What were your favourite subjects at school?
Maths and Spanish but I also enjoyed Design & Technology - I made a wooden chair from scratch!

What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering or science?
Take every opportunity that you can. Don’t let fear stand in your way. You might not know if you are going to enjoy the experience or not but challenges can teach you that you are better than you think are.

Have you always wanted to be an engineer?
Honestly, no, I never knew when I was younger that there were so many different types of engineer.

I was working on a temporary contract in an office still trying to find a permanent job but having given up on the idea of going into marketing when I was told about a Concept Modeller job opening. I had never heard of it so after some research, I applied and was offered the job. This is where my experience of Systems Engineering began. Being a systems engineer allows me to use my creativity as well as mathematics and analysis skills. I joined QinetiQ because I wanted to do more, learn more, work in a wider variety of sectors, and because I wanted to be a STEM Ambassador, which I now am.

What is the best thing about your job?
Every day is a little different and I feel part of a team that makes a difference.

Poppy Martin, Research Scientist

Poppy GarthI am a Research Scientist working in the Ionospheric and Space Weather Research group at QinetiQ. Space weather describes how the environmental conditions in near-Earth space are affected by interactions with the Sun. Space weather can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and can even endanger human life or health. My primary role at QinetiQ is to develop a model of the ionosphere to help us to understand the effects of space weather on radio communications and services such as GPS.

How did you get into engineering?
I was inspired to pursue a career in science and engineering after attending a summer school at the University of Southampton at the age of 17. I was most interested in the talks about Astronomy and so opted to attend the University of Southampton to complete a degree in Astrophysics. As part of this degree I completed a research project at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where I discovered my passion for research. After completing a PhD in Radio Astronomy at the University of Southampton, I chose to continue my career in research by joining QinetiQ.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in engineering?
I recommend applying for work experience in lots of different companies and areas. You may be surprised at what you enjoy doing! As a teenager I had completely written off a career in coding/software development, but when I completed a summer placement in a software department at a local company, I discovered that I actually really enjoyed the process of writing code to solve a problem.

What would you say to young people considering the subjects they will study?
Choose subjects that you enjoy. My career aspirations changed drastically as I grew up – swinging from Vet to Optician through to Astrophysicist. The only thing that stayed constant was my interest in Maths, Science and Languages.

What is the best part of your job?
At QinetiQ’s Malvern site we have expertise in lasers, space weather, cyber security, radar and data science – just to name a few! Working alongside so many remarkable people makes every day inspiring.

Mary Massiha, Aerospace Engineering and Business Management Graduate

Mary MassihaMy name is Mary, I’m 24 years old and I studied Aerospace Engineering and Business Management at RMIT Uni. I was born in Egypt but I mostly lived in New Zealand and Australia. During my studies I got to do lots of really exciting internships; I worked with Engineers Without Borders in Cambodia and I worked in Germany and Indonesia for about a year and a half. After I finished uni I started working at QinetiQ and I’ve been here for about 5 months.

What would you say to young people considering the subjects they will study?
If you’re not sure what you want to do after school but think that you might be interested in engineering, try to keep your options open. If you do maths and science subjects you can get into a lot of different courses, not just engineering so it gives you flexibility even if you change your mind.

How did you get into engineering? (looking for variety of university degree/non-university entry routes)
My Dad was an engineer and he would tell me about some really interesting projects that he used to work on as well as the countries he got to travel to for work which is what originally piqued my interest in becoming an engineer.

Why did you want to work for QinetiQ?
QinetiQ has a great graduate program where you get to try out different parts of the business and then choose what you like.

What were your favourite subjects at school?
Physics and maths were always my best subjects at school but I also really enjoyed art and design subjects as they gave me an opportunity to be more creative. Engineering is a good combination of these.

What is the best thing about your job?
It’s exciting and interesting. There’s always something new to do so you don’t have to work on the same thing every day which makes work very enjoyable

One cool project you have been involved with
One of the most interesting projects I got to work on was when I was in Germany. The project was for the European Space Agency and it involved lots of different companies working on the design and validation of different parts of a new Ariane Launcher. The Ariane Launcher will mainly be used by European companies to launch things such as satellites into space and will be able to carry more than 21,000 kg into earth’s orbit. What my team were doing was looking at the design of the fuel tanks and making sure that they would be able to successfully get things to space.

Sarah Budge, Senior Engineer

Sarah BudgeI am a senior engineer and I work in a team that helps support the Royal Australian Air Force transport type aircraft (so the really big ones that do all the heavy lifting and carry things all over the world). I recently took over as a Team Lead and am now in charge of my team at QinetiQ. I still do engineering tasks but I also manage 14 other engineers who range from the smartest of the smartest with 20+ years experience to brand new engineers straight out of university.

What would you say to young people considering the subjects they will study?
Balance is key! You need to make sure that you are still doing some subjects that you absolutely love and enjoy going to class. I made sure that I did all of my science and maths subjects which although I enjoyed and was good at, I didn’t absolutely love but I knew they’d help my university choices. However, I loved learning languages too so I also took French to satisfy that part of my brain. It didn’t necessarily help me get into university but it gave me a nice broad range of subjects to study. Also, when I got an engineering job in France in an all French team, knowing a bit of French certainly helped!

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Other people’s expectations. I know what I am good at and I know what I can do, but the people around me always have pre-conceived notions of what I could do. I’ve been told oh you’re too pretty to be an engineer, you don’t look like an aerospace engineer and once at an aerospace careers fair, someone passed me and my friends an air hostess training brochure when we were there to talk about engineering internships. It certainly doesn’t take these people long when I talk and show them what I can do to change their preconceived ideas! It certainly adds a certain level of complexity to my job, but I like to be challenge and I like to challenge the stereotypes and so far I think I’m doing well at showing everyone that aerospace engineers can look however they want to look.

What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering or science?
Go for it! I’ve had such a great time in engineering and a rewarding career so far and I do not regret a single second of my decision to become an engineer. There is absolutely no reason why women can’t be the best and brightest engineers and scientists and we need more brilliant, smart ladies to join in!

Have you always wanted to be an Engineer?
Not really, I didn’t really even know what engineering was until I was in my final year at high school and one of my teachers suggested it to me as a possible career. I think I first wanted to do graphic design and get into advertising but found I was terrible at it during a graphic design class at school. At one point I wanted to be a journalist, until I did some work experience at a magazine and hated it! Then I wanted to get into law but did a legal studies subject at school and hated that. These were all options that I regularly saw on TV, or jobs other adults I knew did, and thought they were cool. I didn’t know any engineers and I’d never seen an engineer in any movie or TV show so I really didn’t know about it or what it was. Luckily, for me, my high school teacher was right, he saw the areas I was a strong performer in and knew that engineering would fit me and it does. As soon as I sat in my first Uni class, I knew that I had finally found something I was supposed to do.

What is the best thing about your job?
I think the best thing about my job is that I am challenged every day. I get to use my brain and face a brand new problem every time I begin a new task. Nothing is ever quite the same and I love that about my job. I also love how it’s taken me to places around the world, I’ve worked with so many different people in so many different countries and made some really cool friends and memories along the way.

Nazifa Tahir, Senior Engineer

Nazifa TahirWhat is your job and what does it involve?
I am working as a senior engineer at QinetiQ. I am involved in lots of exciting projects for developing new and unique products or providing technical support for land, sea and air applications.

What would you say to young people considering the subjects they will study?
Explore STEM subjects that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. They might seem to be difficult and ‘alien’ subjects but are part of our everyday life and we intensively use them for solving our real world problems. Did you know all your fancy toys and gadgets like Xbox, flying helicopters, drones, smart watches, phones and cameras are creations of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

How did you get into engineering? (looking for variety of university degree/non-university entry routes)
As a child, like many of you I was also intrigued and fascinated by gadgets of my time like the cassette players (which do not exist now), electrical appliance, computers etc. I was curious to find out how they work and why their performance is limited, for example why a refrigerator cools a small portion and not a complete house? Can we use it for cooling the entire house?

I used to ask all types of weird questions to my father (who is an engineer by the way) and my teachers who would then reply – “You have to be an engineer to find out the answers”. This was the driving force which encouraged me in pursuing Electronics engineering, Masters in Mechatronics Engineering and then finally PhD in Mechatronics engineering!

Why did you want to work for QinetiQ?
QinetiQ is engaged in projects with Australian Defence and Defence Science and Technology group (DST Group). These projects involve developing different types of unique products and provide novel solutions to both simple and complex problems; and this is what I love to do.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Many challenges, it is difficult to name one. Perhaps the biggest challenge was making a tiny sensor and fixing it on a locust!

However, each time when struck by a challenge, I uplifted myself, overcame the fear of not trying, giving up or losing by simply believing in myself that ‘no challenge can be bigger than my strength and passion’

What were your favourite subjects at school?
You must have guessed by now, science and technology subjects fascinated me. I also enjoyed History and Creative Arts as well. I used to hate mathematics and it was not until I got to the University to discover how much important and fun it can be.

What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering or science?
Do not be intimidated to pursue careers in engineering and science. A good engineer or a scientist is never define by his/her gender but by the excellence of work, which is driven by aptitude, hard work and passion.

Have you always wanted to be an Engineer?
Perhaps my parents and teachers knew that I have a potential to be an engineer due to my inquisitive nature. However, to me it was not evident until I got to my High school and got involved in various science projects.

What is the best thing about your job?
I like to challenge myself and look for possible solutions to different types of problems. My job as an engineer and a researcher provides me with these opportunities and develop innovative things for various applications whether it be radar for weather monitoring, products for ocean surveillance or tiny sensors for tracking locusts.

Heidi Garth, Program Director

Heidi GarthWhat is your job and what does it involve?
I am a Program Director. This involves all kinds of things! It could be summed up as managing and leading people and projects to deliver positive outcomes for the business. We often don’t think about this job role when setting out on a career in engineering, but it is a key role that needs experienced engineers to do it! I do not do “engineering” in the technical sense on a daily basis, but I draw on my engineering training and way of thinking every day as part of my job. No two days are the same, and this is because I must lead and manage people. People do not have an ‘answer’ and therefore no two situations are the same. This provides new and challenging scenarios!

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
By far my biggest challenge has been to understand what my potential can be and what I can contribute in a still largely male dominated industry. Understanding how I can use my personal strengths, and this includes my gender, to the advantage of all is so important. We all have something special to contribute, and knowing how to do that is hard!!

What were your favourite subjects at school?
Maths and Music. I’ve always loved maths as I enjoy the structure and precision of the answers you develop. I also love music. I studied classical double bass at the Melbourne Conservatorium right through University. Music is actually similar to maths in terms of the pattern and structure it forms. I also enjoyed Chemistry and Physics because there was so many incredible things to learn and discover! I was very average at English and didn’t really enjoy it…

What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering or science?
Do it. Do it because we all need you to.

We are at a pivotal point in the future of the Earth – Climate Change is real and is happening now. It is our lifetime and your generation that will face the first wave of severe climate change impact on our lives. Did you know that the toxic smoke in Canberra from the Bushfires this summer has killed more people locally than COVID-19?

Females stereotypically chose career paths that are focused on ‘caring’ – nursing, teaching, etc, because we want to help people. We want to make life better for everyone, especially for our families and our children. This is completely reasonable and an excellent reason for making such a career choice. But what about saving the Earth and the humans on it? If you want to ‘care’ and ‘make a difference’, consider what your impact could be as an Engineer or Scientist. It is going to be FEMALE Engineers and Scientists who have both the technical training to come up with the technical solutions, combined with the emotional intelligence and understanding of complex social systems that delivers the impact we need. Your job won’t only be sitting behind a screen working on engineering models or researching all day. It will involve leading, influencing, communicating and inspiring, combined with the study and understanding of social and human systems that will see you make a significant positive impact. Engineering and Science exists because of people, and for people. We do it to make lives safer, easier, better. Our futures. Our lives. What could be more important and more rewarding than a career that does that?

Have you always wanted to be an Engineer?
No! I still don’t know what I want to do! I wanted to study medicine, but after missing out on entry by a fraction, I chose what inspired me, what I didn’t understand, what I wanted to understand and what was the hardest thing I could find to apply myself too. I became a Rocket Scientist! I had little understanding of where this career path would take me as my family did not have any background in this. By becoming an engineer you open up endless career options because it prepares you to solve all kinds of problems and this qualifies you to do most jobs! If you don’t know what you want to do, become an engineer as you will definitely find something that inspires you!

Cathy Kane

Cathy Kane, Director Engineering

What is your job and what does it involve?
I am an engineer, a business woman and a mother and have ‘grown up’ working for QinetiQ. I was lucky enough to start with a student job in the summers at university and then never left after I got my degree. I subsequently went on to become a Chartered Engineer and am now an Engineering Director.

What kind of things do you do at work?
I have run experiments, either virtually, using computer modelling, or physically, with models and tests. I am very proud to have helped design the world’s largest composite ship propeller and a novel mast for HMS Ark Royal. As a business leader I spend more time thinking about how best we can work together to deliver technical solutions to our customer’s problems.

What were your favourite subjects at school?
Even from as young as primary school, I loved Maths and Science. A project on Marie Curie really inspired me! I kept that up at secondary and did Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A-Level, and then my BEng degree in Materials Science and Engineering.

What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering or science?
Don’t be put off by people thinking it is only for boys; it isn’t! There are lots more women involved today. Get a summer job in this area and see where that takes you!

Have you always wanted to be an Engineer?
I have always loved technology and knew I would have to work in that area. I originally wanted to be a science teacher, and inspire others, but soon realised that I could have a technical role and inspire others in a different way.

What is the best thing about your job?
Solving important customer problems working alongside brilliant people!

Caroline Rose, Group Lead Hydromechanic, Hyperbaric and Shock Facilities

I am currently the Group Lead responsible for the safe operation of all the hydromechanic, hyperbaric and shock testing facilities in QinetiQ. In other words, I am responsible for a 120mx60m ocean basin used to test free running scale model ships and submarines, a 270m long ship tank, two large cavitation / quiet water tunnels, the diving and hyperbaric test centre, all based at Haslar, the hyperbaric medical unit at Chichester Hospital and the shock test lab based in Rosyth. I have a team of engineers, facility managers and technicians who maintain and operate these facilities.

How did you get into engineering?
Although I studied Mechanical Engineering at University, I joined the Royal Navy as one of the first female Marine Engineer Officers and was one of the first to serve at sea. I spent 17 years in the Royal Navy undertaking a number of engineering roles, including being the first (and only) steam qualified female Marine Engineer Officer whilst serving on HMS FEARLESS. The Royal Navy also gave me the opportunity to complete an MSc in Naval Architecture.

When I retired from the Royal Navy I decided to follow a different career path and trained to be a teacher of mathematics, which I really enjoyed, however, after 5 years, the call of engineering became too great and I joined QinetiQ as Naval Architect based at Haslar. I have now been working at Haslar for nearly 6 years and have relished all the variety and challenges that I have met over that time. I have taken every opportunity to take on additional roles and responsibilities and have now been in my current Group Lead role for the last 20 months.

What do you like most about your job?
I really love this role because it provides a huge degree of variety, I need to use my engineering judgement, to manage a team and a budget. I need to ensure that the facilities are available to deliver the test programmes in an efficient, effective and safe way, looking at ways to improve the capability.

What advice would you give to others?
The best advice I can give to anyone is to study what really interests you, not what other people want you to study. To take opportunities whenever they come your way, take a leap into the unknown, if you do not try something, you will never know whether you can do it – you will surprise yourself by what you can do and what you enjoy. Do not be afraid to change direction.