Samantha Magowan is an applications engineer for Dale Power Solutions, a back-up power company suppling products that support hospitals, businesses, and organisations in the event of power outages. She is currently four years into a five-year degree apprenticeship, meaning she has been able to study whilst gaining practical, paid experience at the same time. Samantha won the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices at the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards 2019.
“My employer suggested that I went up for an award they had found on the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) website – I laughed and thought that I stood no chance, it was like nothing I had ever done before. But then I won, and it was unbelievable!”
The beauty of apprenticeships
My engineering career started when I was 18 and had just left school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in maths and science but did not want to continue in full-time education, as I had struggled with the stress of A-levels.
I discovered that there were lots of opportunities to do engineering apprenticeships in my area and this really suited me. When I started my apprenticeship, I just loved it and knew I was going to be an engineer. The fact that I was actively making a difference in society through my work appealed to me and everyone at work was so nice. It is just good fun.
Being an apprentice, my job role has changed a lot over the past four years, I’ve built our products, tested them and designed them.
Coming up with a ‘power solution’
Now, my day to day job is a problem-solving role. I talk to clients and help them come up with a bespoke ‘power solution’ for them. I work out the initial design and logistics. I am also responsible for it from a sales perspective, so I get to mix commercial and technical skills in a very balanced way, meaning that it never gets boring.
Dale Power Solutions is in the backup power industry. Our products can bring the power back to a building within a millionth of a second, meaning no critical power is lost. We work in many sectors; one day you’re quoting for a holiday park, the next a hospital, the next a substation or windfarm – it is always different.
Why electrical engineering is essential during the pandemic
One of the things not many people realise is that Engineers can also be key workers. We not only provide essential power equipment but also service and repair it.
In the pandemic, electricity is arguably more important than ever before, and a lot of our clients depend on us to be open and available in case of emergency.
In addition, with a lot of hospitals having increased critical care capacities, their critical power requirements also increase. It has been our job as key workers to make sure that they have everything in place so that if there is a power outage all their equipment does not shut down.
The same applies to national infrastructure, Dales have been needed to support power stations and substations to try to prevent anything happening to the power sources that have become essential to nearly every activity during this pandemic.
Engineering is wrongly perceived
Engineering is a male dominated industry but if more work was done in schools, both primary and secondary, to explain the consequences that engineering has on society and the career possibilities available, it would change the way people think.
The number of adults who think that I fix cars just shows that the way engineering is perceived is not accurate. If people were aware of how engineering affects everything from space missions, green energy resources and bridges to fridges, caravans and shoes it would help them appreciate that engineering is all around them each day. Literally everything is impacted by engineering and it’s through this that we can make real changes to the world.
If more people understood this, then more girls might be encouraged by schools, parents and friends to explore it as a future career path. Girls need that encouragement because as it is a male-dominated industry they will often be entering businesses with no female senior engineers as role models and examples. To progress, you need determination and perseverance that you can buck the trend.
To all women and girls…
If you are interested in engineering but do not know how to start, my advice would be for students to get on to some work experience. Loads of companies do one or two weeklong work experience where you can get to spend a day in each department of the company. It gives a great grounding to how an organisation works, and you will have a clearer idea as to what areas caught your interest.
If you do not know what subjects to pick at school, then just aim for maths and science and you can’t go wrong. I would also recommend the apprentice route, it brilliantly balances learning in a work environment with academia, plus there are no university fees! For people who have left school, have a look at night classes – lots of colleges do basics in robotics, electronics etc., which will help you progress.
The most important thing is to have curiosity, a want to understand how things work and creativity to overcome problems and develop new solutions.
The other thing to remember is that engineering is a very broad umbrella that covers many very different topics (electrical, electronic, mechanical, chemical, civil, biomedical). Just because you aren’t keen on one aspect doesn’t mean that engineering isn’t for you as there are so many different types. Don’t be afraid to do your research and work out what type best suits you.
An award I never thought I’d win
My employer suggested that I went up for an award they had found on the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) website – I laughed and thought that I stood no chance, it was like nothing I had ever done before. But then I won, and it was unbelievable! I had met the most incredible women in the process and to be considered up there with them was amazing.
The IET is a fantastic organisation and does great work promoting engineering and creating role models for new generations. To be awarded the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices at the Young Women Engineer of the Year Awards was very special.
Up next for me is to finish my degree apprenticeship next year and focus on my work projects. I’ve led a project over the last two years to develop a new product range within the business, and upon our first order earlier this year I will be focusing on the design and production of this, as well as trying to expand the range.