International Women in Engineering Day 2023
Job title: Dr Charlotte Meeks, CEng, FIMMM, QinetiQ Fellow
Years at QinetiQ: 26 years
What qualifications did you need to become an engineer?
I studied A-levels in Maths, Chemistry and Physics and then studied at the University of Surrey for a degree in Materials Engineering.
Did you need to undertake any training? If so, what and how long?
I initially joined QinetiQ (DERA) as a year in industry student in the third year of my degree. This was a great experience and I was pleased to be offered a role after I completed the fourth year of my degree. After a couple of years of working at QinetiQ I was sponsored to do a PhD. For about three years I would spend one day a week at Imperial College and the rest of the week at QinetiQ Farnborough.
Over the next five to six years I had further training through leadership development programmes, mentoring and other CPD activities to become a Chartered Engineer. After about 15 years I become a Fellow of IOM3 and continue to carry out CPD to retain this status.
What is the work-life balance like in your role as an engineer?
This has varied through the years. In the first nine years of my career I spent many hours working largely because I was often also travelling for the role and very much enjoying what I was doing. When I became a mother I needed to change my working pattern particularly as I no longer wanted to travel. I found it very difficult to work out a good work-life balance. I had significant child care responsibilities and often felt that I was not getting the balance right and at times felt like I was failing at both home and work. QinetiQ as an employer has become more understanding and for many years now I feel I have been given enough flexibility to be able to manage my time in a more successful way.
Have you developed as a person since you qualified? If so, how?
Over the years, I have had great opportunities to develop as a person. One of the most significant has been qualifying as a coach and team coach. I first experienced coaching through our manager development programme and developed a keen interest from there. I found the experience of being coached had a massive impact on me, in particular enabling me to understand my own strengths and how I can best use these in my roles. This motivated me to spend several years training to be a coach so that I could create the same experience for others.
What makes QinetiQ a great place to work at?
QinetiQ does many great things across a broad range of disciplines and I have been lucky enough to work across many of these domains doing work that I find meaningful. There is a strong work ethic which I value and yet the people I work with are empathetic, supportive and often quite fun.
How can QinetiQ do better when it comes to female recruitment and retention?
I think QinetiQ probably attracts a reasonable number of female engineers, we just need to convince more girls to want to choose Engineering and other STEM activities. In terms of retention, females often need to negotiate around barriers due to politics and subtle gender bias as well as their own internal barriers; their fears and self-doubt. Helping female engineers and leaders to increase self-awareness, manage the politics of business, overcome their limiting beliefs and develop high self-esteem could underpin a successful female career.
What are you most proud of?
Looking at where I am today I feel very proud of what I have achieved in both my home life and work life. I have two great sons that are almost adults now and over the years I have had the opportunity to spend some great times with them. At work, I am very proud to have become a QinetiQ Fellow.