"In terms of the current job market I think its important to demonstrate that you take your subject seriously, that you’re looking to learn more, build networks and collaborate with others. For me being an IET member and an active volunteer is an excellent differentiator on my CV."
Sarah began a career in engineering after completing a chemistry degree and taking a place on E.ON’s technical consultancy graduate scheme. She now runs a team of eight, exploring low carbon energy. She won the Women’s Engineering Society prize in 2010 for this work.
Although she’s come from a non-traditional background, Sarah has found her niche in the engineering world. Not sure where she wanted to take her career when at school, her career advisor recommended she take a chemistry and maths degree as these were her favourite subjects.
“Neither of us realised what the opportunities could have been in engineering for someone like me, someone interested in general science and the practical application of maths,” she explains. “I really regret not having the chance to understand what engineering was about prior to university, but during summer placements I did decide life in ‘fume cupboard chemistry’ wasn’t for me.
“I enjoyed seeing the bigger picture and being very hands on. Luckily for me E.ON were recruiting scientists for the technical consultancy scheme and I got my training as an engineer on the job!”
As part of the graduate scheme Sarah was able to gain experience working at the company’s corporate HQ in Germany - a placement that came complete with language lessons. She got to see a lot of the work that went into R&D at the company and she was able to work on the annual R&D report that showcased the company’s research into new technologies.
When she returned to the UK, she was appointed into her current role, the newly created team leader, Energy Infrastructure.
“Effectively we’re the people involved in the delivery of R&D, looking at technologies that will change the way we think about distributing energy. Topics include storage, new methods of improving grid efficiency and integrating renewable resources such as wind,” she explains.
“The variety is what I like most about my job. No day is ever the same. They’re really exciting topics which government and organisations like the IET are interested in. I like seeing two sides: the technology and then the environment it is going to have to operate in. I think it's a really fascinating mix and certainly what I enjoy as an engineer, is seeing how it will work in reality, as an integrated solution.”
Sarah joined the IET due to colleague recommendations and has gained a lot from being a member.
“There are a lot of people here who are members or IET Fellows and I was always quite jealous of all the things IET members got up to. The benefits I saw really sold membership to me. It was absolutely clear that people who were working toward Chartership through the IET were very focused, had a lot of support plus there are great opportunities for networking, participating in courses, going to conferences and meeting other like-minded people. That’s why I decided to join.”
Winning the Women’s Engineering Society prize at 2010’s IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards was also a great boost for Sarah and has opened many doors.
“I’m working on projects now that will really help bring forward the discussion around women as engineers, so there’s been specific benefits for me personally,” she explains. “The award winners, finalists all have some great ideas so we’re getting together to work on something.”
All the women involved have come onboard to support the IET and the sector through volunteer work, for example Sarah has become an ambassador.
“I go into schools and talk to young girls about engineering and the opportunities available. Because engineering isn’t a subject at school there’s so many preconceived ideas about what it’s about and it’s great to be the person who they can actually speak to face to face and help them understand what engineering is about,” she says.
Sarah also feels that her IET membership and work with the organisation, helps her stand out as a top engineering professional, something she thinks is very important.
“In terms of the current job market I think it’s important to demonstrate that you take your subject seriously, that you’re looking to learn more, build networks and collaborate with others. For me being an IET member and an active volunteer is an excellent differentiator on my CV,” she concludes.