You are currently reading Issue 29, April 2015

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Womanthology Icon

Learning a whole new way of thinking to design and build the world around us – Naomi Mitchison, 2014 IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year

Naomi Mitchison

Naomi Mitchison is a Senior Hardware Engineer at Selex ES, specialising in laser warning systems for military aircraft. She grew up in Italy and moved to Edinburgh for university, graduating with an MEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering in 2009. Her first role was with Thales in its cyber security department. Following this she returned to Edinburgh and joined Selex ES.

Naomi Mitchison
Naomi Mitchison

Naomi is the winner of the 2014 IET Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year Award. This year’s awards are now open for entries. Now in its 38th year, the YWE Awards seek to highlight the achievements of inspiring young women in engineering and encourage others (both young men and women) to enter the profession by highlighting engineering as a worthwhile and exciting career.

Why I chose engineering – a whole new way of thinking

I chose engineering because having done maths and physics at school it seemed like an interesting way to put those subjects to good use, while doing something a bit unusual and different. (I didn’t know any engineers at the time so didn’t really have a clue what engineers did…)

There wasn’t much more planning than that, but fortunately it worked out for me as I found myself on a really interesting course that taught me not only about electronics but also about a whole new way of thinking.

Engineering is all about breaking problems down into smaller manageable parts, and combining attention to detail on all these constituent parts with a high-level strategy of how everything will fit together: I really liked combining these two ways of approaching a problem.

Exploring possibilities

Engineering is not often acknowledged as being a creative industry: it’s all about learning what your limitations are (budgets, time, materials, the laws of physics, etc) and exploring the possibilities in your design given those constraints.

People skills make projects run more smoothly

I still find that one of the most important part in my job is dealing with people: getting a team working together, finding the best compromise, sharing information effectively, etc. Again and again I find that being able to talk to people means I can help the whole team get along better and the project run more smoothly. It’s a critical skill in a job like engineering which is so reliant on bringing together everyone’s individual expertise, plus it helps everyone enjoys their job more.

Designing and building the world around us

I have always loved the way that engineering designs and builds the world around us, and the more time I spend working in the industry the more I realise how many areas I still know nothing about.

I love learning about how different areas of engineering work, and seeing how we all use the same skills but in different ways. I’m always excited by the scope of engineering work out there, and with the flexibility my background in electronics gives me: who knows what I’ll be designing in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time!

Role models changing perceptions

The great thing about winning the YWE award was that it made me realise that the work I do promoting engineering gives me the opportunity to be a role model. I don’t think you wake up one day and decide to be a role model, you just realise that standing up and speaking in front of student, parents and teachers means you are seen as such, and that’s an important realisation.

Everything, from what you say to how you treat people and how you behave, will be absorbed by your audience, and will form part of their (often subconscious) image of engineering. If we want to change the perception of engineering as staid, boring and mostly the preserve of old men, that’s a great place to start.

The winner will be announced on 3rd December 2015. Why not join us? For more information, visit Entries must be submitted by 26th June 2015 at 17:00.

Share this article