Since graduating with a degree in electrical engineering including power electronics from Bangor University in 2001, Anna has built herself a hugely successful career in the semiconductor industry.
“I think it’s important to work towards professional registration to distinguish real engineers from technicians and other work fields that label themselves as 'engineers'. I think the process keeps you motivated too and focused on what you can do next."
Anna Gilbert was awarded Chartered Engineer (CEng) status at the age of 25, joining the growing number of young professionals that achieve professional registration in their twenties.
Since graduating, Anna has built herself a hugely successful career in the semiconductor industry and currently works as a principal design engineer for Cadence.
She ended up in this sector simply by chance as she didn’t have a specific career pathway in mind and decided to choose a job based on location. Lucky enough to walk away from university with several job offers to choose from, her first position actually fell through before she’d even started and so she chose the next closest location, which was Philips Semiconductors. Twelve years later and she’s carved herself a specialist niche in the industry.
Staying with the company until 2010 when her site was shut down, Anna then had to look for a new role and was approached by Cadence, who felt she was the perfect fit for the role of principal design engineer. They wanted her so much that they offered her the opportunity to work from home, and she is now the company’s only UK home-based engineer.
“I was quite a way down the recruitment process before they dropped the bombshell that the position wasn’t in Bracknell – just over an hour away from where I live – but in Scotland,” she explains.
“I wasn’t in a position to relocate and so they began interviewing other people. However after a while they came back to me and put their cards on the table. They said they couldn’t find anyone they wanted as much as me and were willing to negotiate and allow me to work from home.”
Anna believes that many people would find it tough to work remotely, however she’s enjoying the work immensely.
“I love it, but it does take a disciplined outlook,” she says. “I think technology makes [working remotely] so much easier. Through conference calls I feel like I’m in the office a lot of the time anyway! I actually think I get more done working from home as it’s always there so I can pop back to things and take a look, but I don’t seal myself off everyday – I’m speaking to people about ten times a day.”
Anna’s role at Cadence is around the internal design and development of IP, specifically, although not exclusively in the area of Design-for-Test (DFT). She ensures that all IP projects are designed so that they can be structurally tested with the highest level of quality at the lowest cost and maintaining optimal yields.
She’s hugely proud of her achievements so far, having advanced from her early career from a test engineer to an internationally recognised technical specialist, and has been acknowledged by her peers along the way.
One of Anna’s biggest professional recognitions came in the form of CEng registration, which she worked towards for four years straight from university. Thanks to contacts with the IET she found the process of registration quite easy.
“I’ve been a member of the IET since I was 18 as we had a lecturer that was keen on promoting membership. I learnt about becoming Chartered and from this point I decided it was something I could aim for after my degree. Right from the moment I registered my intent to become Chartered I regularly kept records and evidence in my portfolio up to date. I was also very lucky in that I had a colleague who was an IET liaison officer on site, and I also had a mentor who I met with monthly,” she says.
Working towards CEng is what really drove Anna in those early years of her career, and actually gave her the fastest career progression on record at Philips. She definitely recommends it to other young professionals.
“I think it’s important to work towards professional registration to distinguish real engineers from technicians and other work fields that label themselves as 'engineers'. I think the process keeps you motivated too and focused on what you can do next.
“If you strive to continually better yourself CEng is an important process in helping you assess your competencies and look at where you can improve. It forces you to regularly self-evaluate so you can keep developing yourself professionally,” she notes.
In 2009 Anna was awarded the title of the National Microelectronics Institute (NMI) Young Engineer of the Year award. Nominated by both her manager and another business she’d been working in partnership with, she was ecstatic to find out she’d won.
“It was amazing, such a surreal experience,” she enthuses. “The design I was working on at the time was also nominated and won, so the business swept the board!”
Anna’s always been an active member of the IET and has spent many years mentoring in schools. After becoming Chartered and FEANI registered she decided she wanted to step things up.
“I decided I wanted to give back to the engineering community as for me, having a mentor was invaluable, so I signed up to be an IET mentor and help others through the process,” she explains.
“I then decided to take things further. I didn't attend local IET events, the fact was they didn't interest me, so I decided to change that and signed up for the local committee. That was six years ago, and I now organise lectures and local events as well as talk in schools about engineering.”
Clearly proactive in the engineering community, Anna manages all this around playing hockey, taking part in CaniX and looking after her young son, but she has no plans to slow things down. She’s currently looking into a pathway towards IET Fellowship and is ticking several things off her “list”.
“There’s always something on the go, it’s whatever crossed my path! I’ve done my Prince 2 Practitioner, I’ve toyed with the idea of an MBA… although I do a lot of work in schools I’m actually not an ‘official’ STEM ambassador as I’ve never done the paperwork, so that’s something I might tick off the list next really,” she laughs.