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Smashing stereotypes with STEM hero Dilani Selvanathan

“I love being able to create and design things - that’s an important part of being an engineer,” said Dilani.

“In my new role as Research and Design Engineer, every day is different. I can go from attending client meetings to testing code in a drone simulation.

“I love that I’m always learning and getting to experience new challenges, working with other team members and getting insight into other engineering areas; one of the most rewarding parts is knowing that the work I do will impact people’s lives.”

Being out of your comfort zone

Before joining Herotech8 as a Junior Software Engineer, Dilani completed a Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship with the BBC and Queen Mary University, London.

“I did struggle for the first few weeks of the apprenticeship because I wasn’t used to a work environment or studying independently at university,” she said.

“However, instead of quitting, I decided to push myself and remain positive. I wouldn’t be where I was now if I gave up because it was challenging; now I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and getting recognition for my dedication to STEM.”

Engineering a robotics career

“I’d love to progress in robotics and become an integral part of creating technology and machinery that impacts the lives of people worldwide,” she said.

“My dream is to work for NASA, creating technologies to travel in space and machinery to explore planets.

“I’m hoping to complete my EngTech registration soon and maybe even become a Chartered Engineer. I’m only 22, but the opportunities to achieve great things and progress as an engineer so early on in my career are unlimited.

“One project that I’m exceptionally proud to have worked on involved an app that can be used by medical personnel to transport small medical packages via drone,” she said.

“Improving the delivery speed of critical medication and limiting human contact with supplies, while being remotely piloted from anywhere in the world, to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to vulnerable patients. Isn’t that amazing?”

More than just a member

Since winning the IET Engineering Horizons Bursary (now the IET Future Talent Awards), supported by the Engineers Trust, in 2017, Dilani has become a STEM Ambassador, took part in the STEMazing programme, won the 2020 Paul Fletcher Achievement Award and become a WISE role model – to name just a few achievements!

“As a member of the IET since 2017, I’ve been able to build my connections, attend events and get involved with volunteering,” she said.

“I’ve volunteered at the Faraday Challenge, the IET First Lego League as Robot Design Judge and Referee, become an IET Scholarship and Bursary Council member, took the lead as IET London Young Professionals Events Manager, sat on the IET Scholarships & Bursaries Panel, and so much more.

Getting involved in so many different opportunities whilst completing my apprenticeship degree has definitely helped to open so many doors in the professional world.”

Demonstrating dynamism at the 2021 YWE awards

As well as promoting her passion for STEM and helping others, Dilani has recently added a new win to her inspiring long list of achievements: our 2021 Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices Award at the IET Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year Awards.

The prize is awarded to an outstanding female engineering apprentice who has made a significant contribution within the workplace, demonstrating dynamism in her approach to the solution of engineering problems.

On winning the prestigious award, she said: “My goal is to promote STEM nationwide – or even worldwide! I just want to make the world a better place.

Being a part of the YWE awards, and winning the Mary George Memorial Prize, is a doorway for more opportunities and self-improvement.

“Coming from a BAME background, it’s important to inform the community that apprenticeships are not a ‘bad’ alternative option.

There’s so much you can gain from it; we need to break those stereotypes and remove the stigma around apprenticeships. An apprenticeship, and STEM overall, is for all ages, genders and ethnicities, at all levels.”

Her advice for future applicants

“Patience, dedication and hard work is key! If you do get rejected, don’t give up, learn from your feedback and apply again. Most importantly, be yourself and it will shine through on your application.

“Being a part of the YWE awards, alongside other inspirational engineers, was incredible.

The awards are so important because it shows the women in engineering who are making a difference and inspires the next generation of engineers, especially young women, by giving them an insight into the amazing opportunities out there.

“Having a platform to share my story gave me an opportunity to continue to promote my love for STEM; I’ve always been passionate about teaching young people about the importance of STEM and how it can have such a huge impact on lives. I hope my story inspires someone out there.”