Engineering at its best
Author: Harriet Jones, Electrical Engineer
I started out with the intention of becoming a domestic electrician, and – to get my foot in the door – got a job as a portable appliance tester, working in car dealerships and supermarket distribution centers across the UK. I kept applying for jobs as an electrician's mate and, after about year, got a job installing building management systems in shopping centers. My supervisor encouraged me to aim for technician status by continuing with my qualifications via distance learning so I started the Level 2 City & Guilds Electrotechnical Certificate with this company.
I worked in new-build and refurbished retail developments as far afield as Belfast, Exeter, Cardiff and the Liverpool One project.
New retail builds became sporadic, and I wanted a job with guaranteed workload, so I moved to a commercial and domestic contractor in the South West, progressing to the role of electrician when I completed Level 3. This was as far as I had intended to take my studies, and I enjoyed working locally and getting to know regular customers. The company became the sole contractor for a housing association with over 800 properties, and I was really pleased to receive the highest number of positive satisfaction slips from tenants. Sadly, in November 2009 the contractor went into administration and the Bristol office was closed.
I got temporary work as a wirer in a factory making industrial vacuum equipment. This was the first time I had worked alongside other women, and many of them were skilled wirers with experience going back to the 1980s. I asked what qualifications I needed to become a panel wirer, and my supervisor recommended the distance learning HNC/HND in electrical and electronic engineering at Teesside University. Over the next three and half years I gained experience as a panel wirer on short term contracts while completing my HND.
My first permanent role after this was doing mechanical and electrical installation in wind turbine towers, and from there I got a job as a technician working on control panels for industrial processing equipment while training to become an electrical design engineer, building and designing electrical and pneumatic control panels.
In 2015, as I was completing the last module of my HND, I applied for a design role working on Crossrail. The recruiter suggested I apply to be an electrical engineer instead. This role offered a combination of applied engineering and site installation responsibility. Since the best education I’ve had in engineering has always been by seeing and practising installation, this seemed ideal.
I have found this role immensely enjoyable and constantly challenging. The daily experience of working on a superstructure is awe-inspiring. I have the opportunity to put my knowledge and experience into practice while learning every day from the brilliant engineers on my team.
Electrical engineering can feel like a poor relation to other disciplines as installation tends to be compressed at the end of a build, but it is also the most innovative and rapidly expanding field. It is the area of engineering that delivers information, so it is the light in, and at the end of, the tunnel.
Harriet's blog was published to inspire more women into engineering as part of National Women in Engineering Day - 23 June 2016