Susan went on to complete a four-year master’s degree in Engineering at Brunel University. While a student, she chaired the Special Engineering Programme Innovation Forum and Industrial Liaison Committee, and actively participated in events that encouraged young people to study engineering.
Susan also completed three industrial placements at the steelworks in Wales run by British Steel/Corus, where she learned about “engineering projects, design, maintenance strategy, programming and automating plant, engaging people and changing behaviours”.
Since then, she has worked internationally in continual improvement and change management across the aerospace, automotive and steel industries.
Always on the go
Susan is an exceptional volunteer who never tires of taking on new responsibilities. Her commitment to promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to schoolchildren stretches back to 2012.
She has played a key role in activities including mock interviews, school workshops, presentations, conferences and radio interviews. “I often do talks about combining STEM with languages and other subjects, which enables me to reach audiences that may not have thought about continuing with STEM at all,” she said.
“Many young people have fixed ideas about engineering and steelworks. I try to help them understand the vast world that STEM subjects can open up for them. There’s nothing better than expanding their imagination and understanding.
“I focus on parents and teachers too. Many don’t realise how STEM work touches every aspect of our lives, so I talk about the impact of STEM – things like making sure that we have safe, clean water and food, that buildings don’t collapse, and that the phone in our pocket works. The list is endless.”
Susan has also been an active member of our Manufacturing Technical Network (TN) since 2016. A year after joining, she organised a successful Industry 4.0 event that brought together the Local Network (LN), the TN and a range of industrial partners. She’s now the TN Vice-Chair.
In 2017 she co-organised the IET Present Around The World UK Final and was the head judge.
Encouraging women engineers
In 2015, the discovery that Naomi Climer had become our first female president had a big effect on Susan. “I went and found the only other woman in our building and told her the news,” she said. “I wrote to Naomi and thanked her for making me recognise the importance of women in engineering. I received a lovely reply.”
At our 2016 IET Global Volunteer Conference, Susan heard Naomi say that she hoped she’d be the last ‘female president’. “This really resonated with me,” said Susan. “Naomi broke new ground and her hopes came true, because when Danielle George began her term of office in October 2020, she was simply referred to as ‘President’. The fact that she is a female didn’t attract attention – what everyone was interested in was what she hoped to achieve in her new role. And that’s a giant leap forward.”
“The Chief Engineer at Tata Steel asked me why more women didn’t go into engineering,” she said. “It then occurred to me that we lose women from engineering at different points in their lives. I wanted to help women engineers become more visible and to bring them together so that they could understand the challenges and help each other out.”
Susan has been on the IET Wales South West LN Committee since 2016. She said: “I saw how effective our events were in terms of increasing people’s confidence and growing their personal networks. I felt I could help women at work.”
With Naomi as her inspiration, Susan worked with Tata Steel to set up the Steel Women’s Network (SWN), which is an ambassador programme for women in steel. She officially launched SWN on International Women in Engineering Day in 2017.
“I organised networking and information events, talks, lectures and get-togethers,” she said. “Many of the women I met through SWN felt alone in industry or had lost confidence and were considering leaving engineering or not returning to it. It was amazing to learn that our interactions had inspired them to continue with engineering and go on to achieve great things.”
In 2018 Susan became Chair of her LN and took the opportunity to showcase the amazing achievements of women in engineering. She was “thrilled” to align this activity with the centenary of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and succeeded in delivering 11 well-attended events, facilitated or presented by women and featuring female guest speakers.
Working with other amazing volunteers from different backgrounds is what Susan regards as the most rewarding aspect of her IET volunteering activities.
“These people are not just my colleagues and mentors, they are my friends,” she said. “Nothing would be achieved without the effort of the team members supporting each other through the good times as well as the difficult times.”
Susan’s reaction to winning the 2020 IET Achievement Medal for Volunteering speaks volumes about her commitment to volunteering and her team-centred approach: “I was humbled because I never think I do enough and keep pushing to do more.
“I feel it’s an award for all my fellow volunteers and committee members too because none of us does this alone. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the IET’s staff, who pull us together and guide us so well.”
Susan strongly recommends becoming an IET volunteer. “You’ll get to work with like-minded people across many disciplines and make a difference,” she said. “And you’ll find there are so many opportunities to learn and to develop yourself and others.”
If you’d like to explore how you can engage with IET volunteering, please contact email@example.com