Could you tell us about the background of your career?
I started my Engineering career 29 years ago and have worked in a mix of defence and commercial based companies. During my career I have been involved in the design of RF filters and passive components for military applications, low noise amplifier blocks for domestic satellite reception and more recently antenna design.
I joined Cobham 11 years ago as a Design Engineer and I have worked hard to progress to where I am now. In my current position I lead new product development projects and manage a cross functional team. As well as directing my team, I also help mentor them to ensure they continue to progress in their learning and careers. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from this part of the job.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
A real highlight was designing Low Noise Blocks for domestic satellite reception. It provided an opportunity to work in the Far East where the designs were manufactured. The work involved new product introduction, ensuring the production lines were set up and the product yield was optimised. Part of the role was to train teams of technicians about the product, how to fault find and fix any failures. Despite the challenges and language barriers, I gained a huge amount of experience and learnt a lot about design for high volume manufacture and effective communication.
There have been several highlights during my time here at Cobham. When I first joined the company, I was placed on a project for an antenna which was nearing completion. Despite meeting all of the electrical specification requirements, the customer reported some installed performance issues. A significant re-design had to be implemented very quickly. We managed to turnaround the work in the required timeframe and the customer was so impressed that the team received an award for ‘Outstanding Effort’, the plaque is displayed in the foyer of Cobham, Marlow.
Taking on the Lead Engineer role is another highlight. I’ve really enjoyed managing the team and helping to mentor and develop their skills. I enjoy the pressure that comes with my role as it keeps me on my toes. There are always new and different problems to solve each and every day.
Why did you choose engineering?
I was always really interested in science and it seems to have been a common theme in my family. I have two brothers who are also engineers, both working in avionics related disciplines.
I am a bit of a closet ‘geek’ and really enjoy problem solving. Engineering lets me do just that.
I believe that during your life, you will spend the majority of it working, so for me, having an interesting job, that I have a genuine passion for, is my absolute top priority. The role keeps me interested and I am always learning something new.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Managing people can sometimes be a challenge. I need to get to know each person, find out what interests, motivates and drives them individually, in order to get the best out of them. Getting a good team dynamic going and ensuring focus on the priorities and goals is also important to me.
There are always technical challenges, designing for harsher environments, a constant drive to reduce size, weight and power which is crucial for airborne applications. We are always pushing to improve performance, manufacturability, reliability and safety. Challenges are what makes the job interesting.
What are your thoughts on the importance of diversity within engineering and in the workplace?
Diversity within the workplace is really important. It’s great to have a broad mix of people across the company and within our teams. I have worked with several women engineers over the course of my career, but unfortunately they are very much thin on the ground. We need to be encouraging more young women to consider careers in science and engineering.
Having diversity within a team, brings a variety of views, attitudes, experience and approach which makes for a more effective team dynamic. This can help generate ideas and solutions more quickly and effectively.
Why should people consider a career at Cobham?
The work is varied and interesting due to the wide range of products and technologies.
There is a real flexibility on career path, if you find that your talent lies in an adjacent field, you are given the opportunity to move.
There are many training opportunities and the graduate and apprentice schemes are particularly good. A couple of former apprentices I work with are now doing degrees within engineering. It’s fantastic that Cobham are giving young people an opportunity at furthering their education and creating a career path.
As well as the above, there are great benefits, a social aspect and generally great people who work here. The job is always interesting and never dull.
What does International Women in Engineering Day mean to you?
I think it’s a fantastic way of getting the message out there to encourage more women into this industry. It’s important to portray engineering as an exciting, interesting and fulfilling career choice for both women and men. It’s also really important to emphasize to young women that engineering is a highly skilled and professional career that should be viewed in the same light as other professional careers such as medicine and law.
With more women coming into advanced engineering roles, it will help to address the gender pay-gap across the industry.