Emma Goulding is a controls engineer at Siemens. Emma is the winner of the IET [Institution of Engineering and Technology] Mary George Prize for Apprentices after having been named as a finalist in the Young Woman Engineer (YWE) category in 2015. In her role at Siemens – Aeroderivative Gas Turbines (formerly Rolls-Royce plc), Emma works within the Customer Service business, specifically within Service Engineering, by providing controls related technical support to customers located across the globe.
“…Whilst engineering is typically considered a male profession, I personally have found no issue being a woman undertaking a career in this industry…”
Discovering apprenticeships – the ideal solution
I’ve always been interested in how things work, why they work, and understanding the reasons behind the situations when they don’t work. I was home-schooled during my GCSEs, and I believe that having the flexibility of choosing my own GCSEs to study for I allowed me to gain a natural interest in engineering, without being forced, or dissuaded from it.
I went on to study A-levels at a college, of which those included maths and physics, but I decided I didn’t want to go to university after that. Whilst I considered it, I thought that the employment options afterwards may be challenging, and I also wanted to start applying the knowledge I had learnt to real-life applications. This is when I discovered apprenticeships. For me, an apprenticeship was the ideal solution – you can learn, earn and work all at the same time.
Whilst there are relatively few engineers within my family, it was more my own decision to seek out an apprenticeship after studying for my A-levels. I was extremely interested in the technical challenges presented within the engineering industry, and I believed an apprenticeship would provide the ideal learning experience in order to become actively involved with solving these challenges.
An apprenticeship that literally took me places
I currently work as a controls engineer in the Aeroderivative Gas Turbines (AGT) business within Siemens, after completing my apprenticeship towards the end of 2015. Some of my day to day responsibilities can include providing reactive support for urgent operational controls issues, supporting and carrying out modifications to controls software used to govern our industrial gas turbines, and carrying out software testing using electronic gas turbine models.
Originally, I started my apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce Energy in 2012 before the business was acquired by Siemens, and rebranded as Siemens Aeroderivative Gas Turbines in December 2014. My apprenticeship lasted around three years, and within this time I was lucky enough to receive many opportunities to progress both professionally and academically.
I have been able to travel to Africa, Canada and Germany during my apprenticeship for work work-related business, and I’m currently being sponsored by the business to undertake a Mechanical Engineering degree at university, where I study on a part-time basis.
Finding the right work / life blend
Working professionally whilst studying at university is a great opportunity, but it does require good time management in order to manage my work-life balance appropriately. I currently study one day a week, and quite often this involves long days at university. I am required to work on the evenings and weekends in order to ensure I allocate enough time to my university work, whilst leaving the weekdays to dedicate my time in order to carry out my controls role within Siemens.
There is quite a lot of pressure whilst studying and working at the same time, so I also make sure I find time to relax. I am currently part of an athletics club, and I find attending training sessions as an excellent way to relax and de-stress.
Everyone is equal – gender doesn’t play a part
Whilst engineering is typically considered a male profession, I personally have found no issue being a woman undertaking a career in this industry – almost everyone I have worked with has been supportive and encouraging. I’ve always believed that respect is earned by carrying out hard-work, and I believe I gained the respect of my colleagues throughout my apprenticeship by learning as much as possible, and then re-applying that knowledge through the work I undertook.
I feel lucky to be surrounded by hard-working people within the team I work with, and it is this common theme that is the driving force behind the work we do – being a woman doesn’t make it any different.
I feel that everyone in my team believes in being proactive, working hard and helping others with any problems they may have. Most of my time is spent working in teams, and for that team to be successful, it requires all members to be both individually dedicated and mutually collaborative. In this sense, everyone is equal – gender doesn’t play a part.
Changing perceptions: Engineering is not all about grease and grime
I think there is a stereotypical belief that all engineering work is dirty or just isn’t for women, but this isn’t the case. I work with other female engineers on a daily basis, and most of my time is spent investigating technical issues in an electrical lab with other controls engineers.
Engineering is really universal, and has a broad range of applications that I think people just simply aren’t aware of. I was surprised when I originally undertook research on apprenticeships before I started at Rolls-Royce at just how varied and interesting the engineering opportunities that were offered can be.
From what I have experienced, I believe there are excellent prospects for anyone interested in engineering, particularly women. I think more is being done to help encourage women into engineering, than perhaps was being done a few years ago, and hopefully this is helping to change women’s perceptions that engineering is just for men.
Solving problems through curiosity and perseverance
I think schools can definitely help to show younger girls the possibilities that engineering can offer, as in my experience, the younger girls tend to be swayed more by the general opinion of society that careers in engineering are unsuitable for women. Challenging this stereotype is the key.
In reality, there are a variety of roles you can undertake under the umbrella of engineering. I also think a lot of people believe that those who work in engineering must be a certain type of person. Being an engineer doesn’t mean you have to change your personality, or have to act a certain way – a genuine and real interest in problem solving and trying to figure out how things work is what is needed; a real sense of curiosity and perseverance.
Recognition for my work
The pinnacle of my career so far was when I won the IET’s [Institution of Engineering and Technology’s] Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices in December 2015. I felt truly honoured to have won the award, and have since met some really inspirational people within the field of engineering. I hope most of all to be able to reach out to other people who may or may not be considering a career within engineering, particularly women.
There really aren’t enough women in this industry and I think a lot of people have misconceptions about what engineering is like, so if, by being part of these awards, I can show people what it’s really like and encourage more people to consider it as a career option then that is great news!
My role as a STEM ambassador
I have been a STEM ambassador for most of my apprenticeship and career to date, and have been involved with a large variety of activities that promote STEM subjects to young people. I am currently the Site Lead for multiple STEM events being carried out by Siemens AGT whereby I hope to reach out to over 160 children by carrying out a variety of activities and careers fairs over the coming weeks.
By participating in these events, I hope to show to younger people, particularly girls, that there are more career options available to them that just what society expects them to choose. I enjoy working with younger people, and giving them insight into what careers they could potentially go into.
Deciding on your future at a young age can be really scary, so having a bit of extra support and guidance can really make a difference, and I was really grateful to those who offered that exact same guidance and support to me when I was at that age.
Having been out of apprenticeship for only a few months, I am currently becoming more and more integrated into the Controls team. I am beginning to undertake a more complex role within the group, that focuses more on the software retrofit activities we have planned, which works in conjunction with the software testing I am currently involved with.
For the coming year, it is my wish to continue organising and participating with all STEM and IET related opportunities that I can get involved with, whilst also ensuring I keep on track with my university studies!