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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Paula Louise Pritchard PGDip MEng CEng MIET MINCOSE

Published: 10/06/2021

Pritchard, Paula - CEng PGDip MEng MIET MINCOSEEducation and qualifications:
Post Graduate Diploma Systems Engineering for Defence, Cranfield University
MEng Electronic Engineering, University of Wales, Bangor

Job title:
Reliability Manager


What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
Believe it or not, a TV show called Bugs! from the 1990s. It featured a female engineer and inventor, Roz, who regularly saved the day (and her male colleagues) by using her intelligence and ingenuity. At that time, I didn’t know that you could make a career out of designing technology. The show was one of the first to portray female characters as mentally strong.

At school, I was good at Maths and did a Physics GCSE over the summer holidays, and an Electronics GCSE after school. I had an exceptional Electronics teacher at secondary school but in my small rural town, electronics was seen as something to be practiced in a garage or shed at the bottom of the garden. In sixth form, my Maths teacher noted that I was doing Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Electronics for my A levels. He suggested I should look at engineering as a career. I’d never heard the term before.

The idea intrigued me, so I duly did my research and I discovered that people like Roz actually existed and, even better, I could make a career out of designing stuff.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
Working within the UK Defence sector supporting the UK’s National Nuclear Deterrence, I have been a Reliability Manager for a little over two years. There are only a few Reliability Engineers in the entire business and I manage three of these, including a graduate engineer.

Can you describe a typical working day?
My daily schedule involves all the activity required to compile the Reliability and Availability Case for the product I’m leading on. Typically, this will involve assessing evidence, compiling the evidence database, discussing aspects of products with their respective leads, writing assessment reports or leading colleagues to provide the correct inputs to all of the above. In addition, as a manager, I’m expected to develop my professional and personal skills and competencies, and to embody the company’s workplace values. I no longer design circuits, but I do have to understand the design of our complex products.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Yes, it’s a unique scientific challenge. As the UK is a signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, our work to maintain and support the UK Nuclear Deterrent is carried out without actual nuclear testing.

This creates extraordinary scientific and technical challenges. We rely on science and computational methodologies to verify the safety and effectiveness of the product. I need to understand aspects of physics, mechanics and chemistry on top of my electronics background.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Everything! It’s incredibly demanding in terms of complexity and intellectual challenge. There is so much to learn, and I thrive on developing and expanding my knowledge. It is also a unique product; there are very few people in the world who can do what I do.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I was very proud to be nominated for a Women in Science and Engieering (WISE) award in my early career, and again in 2020. I didn’t receive either, but being acknowledged and professionally recognised in that way was pretty special.

I am now a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) advisor for the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). CPD management is something I am really passionate about.

I’m also a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassador. I really enjoy developing young people and fostering their passions for science and engineering.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
For professional standing and respect, I want to be able to say I’m a Chartered Engineer (CEng). My employer, AWE, has a training scheme that lays down the path to Chartered status and they also cover the cost of my professional registration. Gaining and maintaining Chartered status is about learning, and I thrive on learning new things.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
I’ve worked for AWE since leaving university and quite a few people here are Chartered, which makes it less unusual, so it has reduced the impact. I am confident though that if I was to look for work elsewhere, then the fact I’m Chartered would be a boon to my CV.

As my career has developed, I have mentored less experienced engineers and I have found that Chartered status has given credence to my guidance, I’ve been there and done it.

I think the fact I am Chartered was also beneficial to my application to be a CPD advisor. There is definitely an appreciation of what being a CEng means.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
We work in a heavily-regulated sector, which requires uniquely-skilled personnel. Chartered status goes a long way to demonstrating competence and professional standards; an expectation of excellence and leadership. There are also the brand and reputational aspects: the awareness that AWE is hiring and retaining Chartered Engineers.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Do it! The benefits far outweigh the effort of amassing your evidence and going through the application process. It enhances your professional standing and credibility and I got a real feeling of personal satisfaction when I had achieved it.

On a practical level, get a mentor, keep good notes regarding what you are learning and document which competencies each task you undertake supports. I also advocate for keeping a log of your CPD and what you learnt from it, as you do your CPD.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I’d like to continue to develop as a technical leader at AWE. Most female engineers at this company seem to end up in senior management, and I have no doubt that I will achieve that, but I’m aiming for a technical leadership role rather than a people or business leadership function.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am a mentor (with two mentees currently), CPD advisor for the IET, STEM Ambassador, member of the IET’s Professional Development Advisory Committee and member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).

I am a parent to two young children; therefore, I have to use my time and project management skills every day. It’s also great fun that I have to regularly invent whatever crazy thing my kids think up, out of junk from the recycle bin!

Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
While I do not consider myself disabled, I do have very mild Cerebral Palsy; I was awful at sports, so I focused on my academic studies as a child, which lead to my successes in Maths and Physics.


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