Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Why ‘why’ is more important than ‘what’

Andi Connelly Horsley – mechanical engineer and technical publications lead BESA

Why do we engineer things? Why do we do it like that? Is it because we have always done it that way? Why not try this instead? 

I would not want to claim that only women put the ‘why’ ahead of the ‘what’ when it comes to addressing an engineering challenge, but I do think we bring a different perspective, which can help to challenge the status quo. The client is interested in the outcome so ‘why’ should always be the first question – then you look at the how and the what. 

Joining BESA’s SFG20 team of engineers and technical authors has brought my engineering journey full circle. I graduated with a 2.1 in Mechanical Engineering with Management Techniques (the management techniques mostly refer to project management) from Edinburgh University in 2000. 

After graduation, I worked as a mechanical building services engineer for 12 years before becoming a technical author writing the mechanical content for specification software for a further nine years.  Now I do the same for facilities management software at SFG20. 

It was an old boss of mine who taught me what equality actually was. It is not about treating everyone the same because we aren’t all the same. It is about treating everyone as an individual, so they can do the job to the best of their ability, sometimes within certain constraints such as being pregnant!  

That philosophy helped me to properly embrace being pregnant the second time round instead of trying to power through/ignore it. 

The move from design engineer to technical author was huge for me, technically a career change and one that really allowed me to get into the ‘why’ of my chosen trade. 

I always like to start from first principles, from the basics, so I can engineer a way into or out of a design/installation/problem. I used to enjoy trawling through standards, approved documents, literature, etc. to find the answer. When I saw the advert for technical author, I didn’t think twice about applying, it played to all my strengths. 

SFG20 ticked all the boxes on my wish list. It almost completes the life cycle of an installation for me too: From idea to brief, design, specification, installation, and now finally, maintenance. But there is also the added technicalities of process and publishing. You can have the best content in the world, but if you can’t make it simple to follow, and get it out there for subscribers to see, what is the point of writing it in the first place. 

I revel in unpicking complicated processes and seeing what I can do to simplify them or get more from them and I’m just starting to get to that stage now. I also manage the small, but perfectly formed technical team (they really do make it a pleasure to work here, as do the larger SFG20 team). 

I am still enjoying my engineering journey and would encourage any woman out there considering where they might fit into this world to jump right in. You would be amazed how many routes and possibilities there are – and how this industry can play to YOUR strengths. And we need you! 

Admittedly, the work is difficult and complicated; honestly though, in the construction industry, if you’re finding something easy, it’s usually because you’re doing it wrong. And wouldn’t it be boring if it wasn’t just a little bit challenging? 

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