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Natasha Carpenter, Special Recognition winner, IET YWE 2011

As a single mum Natasha was motivated to improve both her own and her son’s future. She moved away from a dead-end job taking the leap of moving into a new sector and becoming an apprentice telecoms engineer.

Natasha Carpenter accepting an award from Myleene Klass After working as a secretary in a solicitor’s office and being bored of sitting at a desk day after day, London-based Natasha knew she wanted to try something new. Looking for a career rather than a job, she knew she needed a dramatic change and decided that engineering could well provide the inspiration she needed.

Trawling through the national apprenticeship website [new window] she uncovered the gem she was looking for and applied to Cable and Wireless (C&W) Worldwide to join their telecoms engineer apprenticeship scheme.

“I’m so glad I took that jump, it was so worth it. There aren’t enough women in this sector though, so I do hope that many women may follow my lead,” she says.

Skills gained

Now nearing the end of her apprenticeship, Natasha has seen her confidence blossom and has gained a wide range of skills and experience. Having never left home before, she was given the opportunity to move away for three weeks at a time to attend college in Coventry. C&Ws internal college is based up in Birmingham, so throughout the scheme she was also attending training there.

“You also get to go to other departments within the business and trial them out for the day,” she enthuses. “I got to see what happens before a job arrives with me.”

Challenges faced

Natasha’s career journey hasn't been easy however, as having a son, now five, can make managing work and home life that much tougher.

“A lot of girls think if you have a baby you can’t do anything, but actually you can. It doesn’t come easy, you have to work for it though,” she says. “It was very hard for me because I’d never really been away from home before and I felt guilty, felt bad for leaving him to go to college etc. But then I look back and think hey, I’m doing this to better our future. I want a career not just a job, and here I can climb the ladder - why should I settle when I can achieve that?”

Winning awards

In these last two years Natasha has won numerous awards and is hugely proud of what she has achieved. She’s already walked away with the award for Telecoms First Year Outstanding Performance from her college as well as an internal company award. She was also showcased as an engineering success story by the Daily Mail. Winning a Special Recognition award at the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year ceremony must have been the icing on the cake for her career so far.

Her determination has got her to where she is today and Natasha is now keen to help other young women enter an industry that has so much to offer.

“I’ve got here now and I just want to help other women to do the same thing,” she says. “I hope (I can use this award) to attend more events and also go into schools to talk about my work.

“People look at you and say ‘we’d never think you were in engineering’,” she continues. “I want (young women) to see that I’m able to manage my career and a young child, show them that you get support from your employer. Whether you have a young family or other personal commitments there is support out there to help you achieve in your career,” she explains. “You just want to reach out to others, explain what you’ve been through and what you’ve achieved.”

A new era begins

A new era begins for Natasha in February, when she completes her apprenticeship and becomes an associate engineer at C&W.

“I definitely have an idea where I’m heading,” she says. “I’m going to work towards becoming a full engineer, then senior and finally principal engineer. Then a few years further down the line I hope I’ll move into project management.

“I think its good to have goals,” she continues. “When I was younger I wasn’t focused, but now I know exactly what I want to do and I’m going to achieve it,” she concludes.

Watch Natasha’s YWE finalist video