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Women in Engineering Day

23/06/2017

International Women in Engineering Day is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and the career opportunities available to women in this exciting industry. 23 June marks the fourth year of this annual event.

We spoke to some of our own female engineers to get an insight into their role and why they entered an engineering career, while getting some advice from them for future female engineers.

Caroline Curzon – Alfreton Team Manager



Caroline Curzon (above left) is WPD’s Alfreton Network Team Manager and has worked in the business for almost thirty years.

Caroline was fascinated by engineering at an early age and was planning to study Architecture at college, but her interest in electronic engineering was sparked into life by a chance job opportunity at the Electricity Board.

“I was in my final year at school and waiting for my exam results, I secured a temporary job at my Dad’s firm. The Electricity Board offices were located next door to my Dad’s company. I was told about a job in the Drawing Office at the Electricity Board. I applied for it and got the job. I was allowed to do my Architecture course on day release and by the time I completed the course I was totally hooked on engineering and the electricity network,” Caroline said.

Caroline explained her interest in electric engineering. “The way electricity is generated always fascinated me from a young age. I used to think ‘How can a flick of a switch light up a light bulb!’. I love the different elements to supplying electricity, from the way we need to design the network right through to the way the network gets installed.” 

Following her first role in the industry, Caroline obtained an ONC and HNC in engineering at college. Since then, she has worked numerous roles in the business and been involved in a number of key projects. She said: “I’ve worked in planning, been a metering engineer and operations engineer, handling voltage complaints and managing network solutions before moving into senior engineering roles. Before my current role at WPD, I was an Inspections and Maintenance Programme Manager and a Commercial Manager.”

Caroline’s current role is Team Manager for the Alfreton area, where she oversees responsibility for the 1,800 km underground cable, 300km overhead line and over 1,000 substations that deliver power to 80,000 homes and businesses every day.

“What I enjoy is the variety in my job and the interaction with the team and customers. 

“There are 32 staff in the team including linesmen, jointers, fitters, a planning team, team support, technicians and an operator. I work closely with the team to ensure the safety and performance of our team and also determine the work programmes for the construction, reinforcement, alteration and replacement of electricity network assets to help keep the lights on. I also work as Standby Manager out of hours; receiving calls and dispatching staff for any level of incident. In this role I monitor supply restoration times and help the teams in the field if they have any questions,” Caroline explained.

She added: “In a storm situation, I usually manage the Low Voltage faults within the Chesterfield and Mansfield area. This is a time when great teamwork really shows itself!”

Caroline is a real advocate for getting more females into the engineering industry. “I love to see it when other females show an interest in engineering. In the early days of my career, it was tough being a female. I felt I had to prove myself much more than my equivalent male colleagues. Fortunately, I had a number of great colleagues and a fantastic family who supported and encouraged me. This made me more determined to succeed, and the person I am today. I’m pleased to say those days have long gone. I feel it’s much more accepted for women to be engineers these days. I would encourage any female to give it a go.”

Caroline also had advice for women on how to best get into engineering. “I would say, do your research. Look for opportunities such as apprenticeships, or trainee programmes. Ask a company if you can have an overview of the business. 

“Engineering is a very wide term, being an engineer can mean lots of different things. But whatever you think, if you have an interest in what engineering is all about, then go for it.”


Alison Sleightholm – Regulatory and Government Affairs Manager, Bristol

                        

We asked Alison, pictured above, some quick fire questions about her time in the engineering industry for Women in Engineering Day.

How long have you worked for the company? 
32 years. It’s flown by.

How did you start at WPD? 
I completed an electrical engineering degree at Southampton University and joined SWEB (WPD’s South West licence area) as a graduate engineering trainee.

What are your main roles and responsibilities at work? 
My current role as Regulation Manager means I have responsibility for everything to do with our Regulator, Ofgem. In previous roles, I gained a good background in operational engineering which is what WPD is all about.

What do you enjoy about the job? 
No two days are ever the same and the people I work with are fantastic.

What is the biggest challenge? 
Fitting everything I want to do into my day.

What do you like about engineering? 
It’s never boring – in particular some of the challenges we currently face in terms of connecting generation to the distribution network and system operation are engineers’ dream.

How did you get into engineering? 
I decided at about four years old and never wanted to do anything else. 

Would you recommend engineering to women? 
Yes definitely. I couldn’t have enjoyed anything more.

What advice would you give to get into the industry? 
Work hard and do lots of maths. 

What do you think is the most significant barrier to females in management roles?
The ones you invent for yourself.

Have you noticed a change in attitudes to female managers over the years?
Yes – times change.

What qualities do you feel are required to be a female manager/leader?
Clear vision with ambition to succeed and the ability to take others with you. The traits of a good manager are not gender specific.


Theresa  Evans – Design Engineer, Cardiff



Engineering is still typically viewed as men’s work – however this is changing as one woman who has embarked upon a career in the profession can testify.

Theresa Evans, above, from Pontypool, South Wales works for us as a Design Engineer.

Theresa, who has over 20 years’ experience of working in the electricity industry, began her career working for SWALEC and the former Hyder plc as a Graduate Engineer.
 
She joined WPD in 2001 and is currently based at its Lamby Way office in Cardiff and is now a senior member of the Primary System Design department.
 
Her day to day activities include working on multi-million pound generation projects, planning and designing the electricity network, meeting customers, financial organisation and monitoring and discussing connection issues as they arise. 

Theresa, a Chartered Engineer explained: “I would definitely encourage young women to enter engineering.  It’s an interesting world and with constant advances in technologies it can only continue to grow. 

“Engineering as a whole has so many different areas to venture into.  I can honestly say I have never experienced any kind of prejudice.  It’s been a pleasure to interact with all elements of the company and customers alike. 

Asked how she got into the profession she explained: “It’s always been something that I’ve been interested in. There’s so much to see and do and it’s very rewarding.”

Theresa’s has some advice for any woman thinking about taking up an engineering role: “If you’re interested, don’t be put off, just apply. There are so many opportunities within the industry and some great career prospects.”

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