After hearing about Future Female Engineers, I knew I wanted to apply immediately. It sounded like the perfect way to meet like-minded women and to get a taste for what working in the engineering industry as a woman might feel like. The application process was very straightforward: a few questions to answer followed by a phone interview. Before the phone interview I was very nervous, however I was quickly put at ease. About a week later, I was invited to attend the event and started to excitedly plan my trip to London. I find London very intimidating, so I was both excited and terrified by the idea of getting to the Arup office, where the event was being held, by myself.
On the day of the event I woke up at 5am to catch the train from Durham to London, which was generously reimbursed. Once I arrived in London, finding my way to the Arup office was much easier than I thought it would be. I enjoyed walking past newly built office buildings, wondering if this was the right place for me to work in the future. I met the TARGETjobs team and other students in the atrium, where we had professional headshots taken, and then quickly moved on to the first activity of the day. This was an interactive workshop with Kate Taylor, an empowerment life coach, who spoke to us about creating our own personal brand and the importance of our image. She instructed us on developing and improving self-confidence and our outward image. For me, this was a fun and interesting way to start the day.
Afterwards we had lunch, which allowed us to talk with the women representing the firms at the event and was also a great opportunity for us to talk with each other. Following this, we were organised into groups to complete a team project, which gave us another opportunity to talk to and work with other women studying engineering. After this we had two small group sessions with employers, based on our applications and the skills sets the employers are looking for.
My first discussion session was with AECOM, an international infrastructure firm, which is where I met Louise, who helped me to secure my summer placement. During the session, Louise spoke about the opportunities available to us at AECOM in each of our areas of engineering. I’m a penultimate year electrical engineer, so Louise informed me about the summer placements available in both their Building Services and Energy departments. She also gave us general advice about graduate and summer placement applications, which was extremely helpful.
I then had a session with Trafigura, a commodities trading company specialising in metals and energy, during which representatives explained commodities trading and the types of jobs available to people from an engineering background. This was particularly interesting because I had never considered working in commodities trading before.
Later in the afternoon there was a panel talk given by four female representatives from some of the companies who were part of the event. This was my favourite part of the day because it gave me the best idea of what being a woman working in engineering would be like. The women answered questions from the audience, which were mainly centred on work-life balance, finding satisfying work and on climbing the career ladder. After listening to the women talk, I felt more relaxed and positive about my future in engineering because they all described having a really positive experience. It was refreshing to hear them being honest about their experiences and it comforted me to know that all the work and stress of university will be worth it.
After this there were drinks and then it was time to go back to Durham. When I was back I decided to apply to AECOM for a summer placement. I got in touch with Louise, who after a short while was able to arrange an interview for me at their office in Cardiff for a summer placement as an electrical engineer in their building services team. I was very anxious about the interview, but as soon as it began I calmed down and started to really enjoy talking about engineering and what life might be like working for AECOM. Both of my interviewers were women and they put me at ease straight away. After the interview, I knew this was the placement that I wanted and was thrilled to be offered a place the next day.
I applied to six companies for summer placements and have been successful in being invited to interview at most of them. I think that attending Future Female Engineers made a real difference to my applications, and that this has helped me to succeed. I would recommend attending to other women who are looking to kickstart their career in engineering. It certainly made the difference for me.