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Meet the volunteers - Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence

As Young Woman Engineer of the Year Hanna was able to take her outreach volunteer work to the next level and is a devout promoter of engineering and supporting young professionals.

Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence


"It’s so different to my day job where I sit and play with bits of kit and hardware. I love my work, but it’s great working together with others to tell other people about how exciting engineering really is."



With both her parents being engineers, Hanna has spent most of her life either explaining or promoting engineering, and trying to break the stereotype of an engineer being ‘the guy with the spanner’. She was able to take this work to a professional level when she was awarded Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year in 2008.

“Before that I went to a few events and I was involved in outreach work, but it really took off when I won the award,” she explains.

An engineering ambassador

As the YWE winner she took on the role of being an ambassador, presenting at various highbrow events and contributing to media items. Some of the events included attending the Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies Summer Reception held at the House of Commons, the finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition and working with local secondary schools in Oxford and Brighton. 

“It opened up a lot of opportunities to promote engineering,” she says. “ I was able to highlight achievements of women in the industry, across all sectors. I was able to go out and get my enthusiasm and passion across, which in turn would hopefully inspire others to look at a career in engineering. That’s the most important and exciting part of it: trying to inspire the youngest generation of engineers.”

Hanna used the YWE award as a springboard for her outreach work, and since her year as ambassador finished she has continued promoting engineering and supporting young engineers.

Supporting community involvement at the YP summit

She was closely involved in the Young Professionals (YP) summit, where she chaired a session on community involvement.

“It was a discussion session on how to engage members more with the community, whether they’re the local networks or technical professional networks, or the younger members sections,” she explains. “The outcome of this was then presented to the president and the chief executive of the IET.

“It was a great chance to meet a lot of the young professionals, active IET members from all over the UK and the world. It was nice to have that first hand experience of skills and enthusiasm.”

Participating in political panels

One of the highlights for Hanna was the opportunity to participate in the party political conferences as a panelist on the “Engineering Skills Are Vital To UK’s Future” debate alongside Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Vince Cable, Lord Drayson and Jonathan Flint, Chief Executive, Oxford Instruments.

“We were there promoting engineering and emphasising its importance. We were being quizzed and it was quite a strange experience sitting next to Vince Cable and answering the same questions as him.”

Her highlight? Networking.

One of the things Hanna has really enjoyed about her volunteer work has been meeting people.

 “Whether it’s seeing young people and their enthusiasm for science and engineering, or whether it’s networking with more experienced engineers and finding out about all the exciting projects happening in different branches of engineering, I think it’s having that contact, she says.

“I’m in the university in an academic environment, so I don’t get to meet lots of people from the industry. Networking is very much a part of my outreach work and it's a great chance to work together with engineers at different stages in their career at locations all over the world. I never used to really feel the value of networking, but now I do, and I take advantage of it and its inherent opportunities.” 

She feels she has gained a lot from her volunteering experiences and she loves giving back to the community.

Great to be involved in promoting engineering

“It’s so different to my day job where I sit and play with bits of kit and hardware. I love my work, but it’s great working together with others to tell other people about how exciting engineering really is.  And it’s not just promoting engineering, but giving support to professional engineers throughout their careers. It’s good to be involved with that.

“I feel that I’ve benefited from this newly emerging support for young people. I’m in a position that I can give back, I’d like to consolidate that strand of the work that the IET do and expand it as well. Because I’ve been so lucky early on, it has always been important to me. Especially now I have the means, I feel that I should be doing more,” she says.

Making a difference on the Board of Trustees

Hanna’s latest work is being part of the IET’s Board of Trustees. It’s only been a few months since she came on board, but as the youngest member of the board she feels she’s been given the role to stand up for younger members and offer them more support. She’s got a lot of new ideas she’s planning to share and promote.

This role came about simply because she was asking around about new ways she could continue her work once her tenure as ambassador came to an end.

“I had started to get more involved with the Young Professionals, but wanted to continue doing the kinds of work I had been but I didn’t know how. I was then invited to be put up for election on the board. I was looking at how I could stay involved and this was suggested,” she says.

Hanna considers volunteering a true part of her career and it’s something she plans to continue long-term.

“It’s a really valuable thing to do. Its important to make sure the word is spread about how exciting and valuable engineers are, and how rewarding and fun engineering is too,” she concludes.