It seems strange to admit it now, but I actually had no idea about building services until I ended up IN building services.
Having completed a degree in chemical engineering, I went looking for a graduate job and came across the job advert for FairHeat. It sounded interesting because I was keen to work in the low carbon / renewable sector.
Having got the job, I then discovered this whole new sector I didn’t really know much about. Now I am a full convert and want to make sure we shout about the opportunities in building services to future engineers and raise the sector’s profile.
It can be a bit daunting for a young woman to consider coming into this industry so having mentors and role models is so important. I have had great mentors through the Heat Exchanger Mentoring scheme and been lucky to have great female colleagues at FairHeat (past and present), including Lina Aglén and Ellen Hassett, who are fantastic role models.
They provided an important and supportive environment for me to thrive as a young female engineer. They were especially helpful with strategies for dealing with ‘challenging’ work situations, especially construction sites where women are underrepresented and can sometimes be less accommodated.
I do feel things are getting better on that front, but we are not quite there yet.
My job continues to challenge me on the technical front too and I love the fact that I am constantly learning and discovering new things about heat networks, district heating and wider building services. This means I am making a real difference and having an impact on the decarbonisation of heat, which is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country.
Generating heat accounts for 37% of UK carbon emissions and heat networks will play a huge part in getting that figure down. I love that I am part of a company leading the way on this.
Women have so much to offer to this industry and often they don’t realise that their skills are just what we need. There are amazing opportunities opening up thanks to the net zero agenda and push for making buildings healthier and more sustainable.
I would urge any young woman to go for it and not worry if they feel a bit out of their comfort zone to start with. It can feel terrifying at first, but you never know what doors may open for you and what a difference you can make.
Also, do get a mentor – help and guidance can be invaluable. And surround yourself with other people who will empower you. I don’t think I would have been in the position I am now if I didn’t have someone who pushed me and supported me to a) study an engineering degree b) believe in my ability to apply for the CIBSE Graduate of the Year award, which led to me attending a major conference in Las Vegas no less!
I didn’t see that opportunity out there when I first applied for my job, but it just shows you what can happen if you push yourself forward.
I am now determined to use my platform as the 2021 award winner and be a visible role model for aspiring future engineers. I hope to showcase the industry to young females to show them that the industry is a great place so we can narrow the gender gap and make the industry more supportive for all types of people (not just women, but from all ‘diverse’ backgrounds).
We have a huge skills shortage, and we will not solve it unless we open up properly to women from all backgrounds – after all, we do make up more than 50% of the population!
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