Since winning Young Women Engineer of the Year (YWE) in 2004, Faye has achieved so much. Here she talks about how YWE supported her career development and her continued promotion of engineering since passing her title on.
Faye Banks, a successful electrical engineer, has risen the ranks of the engineering community since she ‘discovered’ engineering at the age of 16. Now working in her dream role as North East Electrical Transmission and Asset Manager for National Grid, her working life began very differently, as a line operator in a manufacturing plant.
“I spent my childhood in care and left school with no formal qualifications. The age of 16 was a low point but also a turning point in my life,” she explains.
“I was not engaged with society, wasn't part of an educational system and my self-confidence was very low. I left school and obtained casual work as a line operator at a local manufacturing plant. I initially enjoyed my job but soon became frustrated when I had to wait for engineers to come and fix my machines. I began to collaborate with the engineers and ask them what had gone wrong, why this happened and how I could remedy any future problems.
“I then decided I would go back to night school to re-sit my GCSEs so that I could obtain an engineering apprenticeship, I did so and a year later I achieved five As and two Bs. I had now found a new confidence and was hungry to achieve much more with my career and that was engineering.”
At this point Faye joined an advanced electrical engineering apprenticeship at Lin-Pac Plastics. During her time there she studied additional PLC and digital electronics units and after she completed her apprenticeship she took on a role as a systems engineer at the company.
Later she moved to Unilever as an electrical engineer and was rapidly promoted into the engineering team leader role. From there she had the opportunity to work as a manufacturing manager at Carlsberg UK and spent time living and working alongside Sidel Simonazzi in Parma, Italy, designing and commissioning the world’s fastest canning and bottling lines.
This was the year that Faye applied for and won the title of Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year 2004, and she was both shocked and overjoyed to have won as she knew her competitors were amongst the UK’s brightest young female engineers.
As well as the recognition and prize money, the title also comes with a role – that of engineering ambassador, and for the year you hold the title the winner has the opportunity to undertake a wide range of volunteer work, promoting engineering. Since passing on the award, Faye has continued this work, much of which is completed in conjunction with the IET.
“Since winning the YWE award I have been actively involved in many UK engineering initiatives. I worked alongside the BBC and Open University to produce a number of STEM documentaries, I have been elected onto the IET UK Communities Together Project team and I am a key member of the IET Apprenticeship Group,” Faye says.
“I have been working alongside the power/utility industry and Selby College to develop an apprentice framework to address the current skills gap within the Yorkshire engineering community and this scheme was recently approved via IET. I also have been a key member of the Yorkshire Reliability Group and I have played a key role in identifying reliability strategies whilst working in a regulated environment with Yorkshire Water.
“I currently volunteer as IET North Yorkshire Vice Chair, the IET North Yorkshire Schools Liaison Officer and a STEM ambassador,” she continues. “I believe it is important to be a role model for future engineers to ensure they fully understand how engineers help develop their local communities and society at large. I am passionate about my career and I enjoy promoting engineering as an exciting and rewarding vocation.”
Faye is keen to give back to the community, but she also feels that she gained a lot from the award professionally.
“Winning YWE has definitely supported my career development as I rapidly moved into engineering management which has enabled me to gain additional commercial and organisational experience. My resultant enhanced skill set was fundamental to achieving my latest career position within National Grid,” she highlights.
Faye’s goal for many years has been to work for National Grid as she feels it is one of the best places for her to develop her true potential as an electrical engineer.
Working as an electrical transmission and asset manager, her priority is to ensure the reliable transmission of electrical energy and that a safe working environment is provided at National Grid’s substations to guarantee her resources are effectively utilised, thus driving forward a culture of continuous improvement.
“I have responsibility for managing a portfolio of resources across multiple zones, ensuring that the capital plan and other scheme delivery provide continuous improvement in productivity and utilisation, and that operational tasks are delivered on time, to budget,” she explains. “I deliver high quality asset information to assist with future operational investment decision making, and also use my business acumen to handle issues such as contract support, technical support and third party relationships.”
Taking every opportunity to improve herself, throughout her career Faye has continued to educate herself, undertaking a number of Open University courses including an International Triple Accredited MBA.
She is currently in her final year of an MSc in technology management and is now considering starting an MSc in safety and risk management once this is complete.
Professional accreditation has also been important to Faye, and in the last few years she has achieved Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, and recently became an IET Fellow.
“Achieving an IET Fellowship award has been the epitome of my engineering career,” she says. “After achieving CEng status via IET, I was able to identify that I have been working at the forefront of engineering and technology for more than five years.
“I can now also demonstrate that I work within the codes of conduct and ethical obligations of the profession and I’m regularly engaged with the IET’s voluntary activities. Moving forward I will continue to inspire and help shape the future of our profession.”