Could you tell us about the background to your career?
I started out straight from University having complete my degree in Mechanical Engineering as a Design Engineer in a company that specialised in mobile hydraulic valves and systems, working with customers such as JCB, Caterpillar and even Ferrari! Luckily the engineering team was small and manufacturing was carried out onsite so there was plenty of opportunity to get involved right from the start, all the way through to actually taking the parts out to customers to trial fit.
It was a great start to a career in engineering as I was able to experience and gain confidence across all parts of the development process, but I had a drive for more responsibility and with such a small team it was not possible to gain the experience whilst there; so I made a brief transition to a different company and Marine Engineering, albeit the less glamorous world of waste water treatments on board ships.
I have now been with Cobham 6 years and had 3 roles whilst here, all of which have supported my desire for more responsibility. I joined as a Systems Engineer, very inexperienced as it was my first role in aerospace, but still very keen to learn and develop! I spent the first year and a half with Cobham learning as much as I could about the processes, interactions, restrictions and general rigor that needs to be applied in this environment, before gaining a role as a Deputy Engineering Manager. Since being with Cobham I have been able to further progress to Engineering Manager of a dynamic team that develop new products for one of our Air-to-Air Refuelling sub-systems.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
Getting to drive an articulated dump truck in the Caterpillar proving quarry during a visit to the production facility, where one of the 70+ ton trucks was completed every 2 hours.
Seeing ‘my’ products on the side of the road being put through their paces.
Presenting to Cobham CEO & Head of Boeing Defence and Space on an issue that was getting a lot of attention at the time, being able to be concise and factual ensured the information was given without becoming too contentious.
Why did you chose engineering?
Knowing how things worked and taking stuff apart is something that I’ve always done, and I love working out problems and ways to make things better. During my A-Levels I had the opportunity to attend a Women in Science and Engineering weeks’ taster course at Newcastle University and loved it; from then on I knew I was going to be an engineer, just picking where to go with it was a little harder. Eventually I settled on Mechanical Engineering as it was wide enough to give me plenty of opportunities post degree.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
As an Engineering Manager I have a fantastic variety in my role of seeing the ‘nitty-gritty’ of the problems and helping my team to decide of the best route to the solution. This alongside developing and supporting the members of my team in their own ambitions, both of which I thoroughly enjoy and take a great deal of pride in. It can be difficult some days to fit it all in whilst also trying to balance with the needs of the business, and motivating the team to deliver what we say we will. In this role it is incredibly important to develop resilience as well as a sense of humour to ensure the team continue to work well even under a great deal of pressure.
What are your thoughts on the importance of diversity within engineering/in the workplace?
Diversity in the work place for me means all angles are thought about and discussed, therefore ensuring the most appropriate solution is brought to the fore. It allows the free and fair communication between colleagues of all different backgrounds/race/genders means we can get a better/safer/more cost effective solution than people working in silos, or solely under direction. I also feel that people who are enabled to communicate ideas and feel listened to are more engaged and can bring a wealth of experience to the teams. Everyone has something to offer, and there is no such thing as a stupid question – they are some of my favourites!
Why should people consider a career at Cobham?
Cobham has unique place in the Aerospace Industry, if you want Air-to-Air Refuelling, you want Cobham. Not to say that we are complacent, it is down to the people in Cobham to safeguard that legacy, and ensure that future is secure with continuing developments and projects coming up and opportunities to work towards.
As far as personal development goes Cobham offers a huge amount of opportunity for those looking to expand their knowledge of engineering with the range of products that we develop, as well as those who wish to take on more responsibility. Progress can be made and it is fully supported through both internal training, mentoring and the PDR system. It is a rapidly changing business environment but there is a future for Cobham that I can see I want to work for.