Education and qualifications:
HND Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Bedford College
Head of Lighting – Associate Principal Lighting Design Consultant
Vice President – Education, The Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP)
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
Oddly I fell into it after my dreams of becoming a vet didn’t materialise. Looking back, it was obvious that I should have been an engineer. My logical mind, love of K’Nex and understanding of how things work meant I was a perfect candidate, but for whatever reason it didn’t even appear on the radar until a chance temp job at the local council. I’ve never looked back.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
As Head of Lighting here at Elementa, I lead the lighting design practice for the UK and Europe. I design light and lighting for all facets of the built environment, providing safe and inviting places to live, work and play. My position comes with a great deal of mentoring and supporting my team and colleagues all round the world to help them to learn the nuances of lighting, and to become the best engineers and designers that they can be.
Can you describe a typical working day?
On a normal day I undertake lighting designs, primarily for exterior applications but I am also working in interior and daylighting design from time to time now, so that is very exciting! This can be for local authorities or the highway authorities, Highways England, architects or developers and everything in between. The majority of my work is highway based, so I tend to be designing for roads and amenity areas, but I do on occasion get to undertake some of the more interesting and challenging designs like architectural and sports lighting. I sit on some working groups, task forces and committees as well so part of my day is taken up with research and collaborating with engineers and designers such as the Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce to help build a better world.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Lighting is a niche discipline, so we are quite a misunderstood group that face daily challenges to have our expertise understood. As with every niche discipline, you need a love of the subject to really get to grips with it.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I love knowing that my work can make a difference to the world around me and that I can walk down a street and see my designs made real all over the UK. It gives me an immense feeling of pride.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I was honoured to be listed in the inaugural Financial Times and Inclusive Boards 100 Most Influential Women Leaders in Engineering (UK & Europe) List in October 2019. It was quite a shock but shows just what can be achieved when you love your profession and are passionate about sharing it. I was also recently profiled as a successful Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) engineer role model by InterEngineering which was a true honour. The campaign helps to raise the profile of engineering in an under-represented group and shows the profession to be a diverse and inclusive culture.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Professional registration shows that I am competent and qualified in my field, so it made sense to take the step to apply. At the moment I am in the last stages of applying to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng) so that is a new adventure in itself.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Registration is a mark of quality. My company and clients know that I am a trusted and competent engineer, which helps to keep me moving through the ranks in my business and institution.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My employer can be safe in the knowledge that I am qualified and recognised by the Engineering Council, which they can then use to increase take-up of services with clients. Some clients require a specific level of professional qualification to undertake certain tasks, so registration puts me in a position to provide a better service for my employer. Ultimately a registered engineer can be charged out for a higher fee, which improves profit margins.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Definitely go for it. Being registered gives you greater opportunities in the professional world and affords you the respect and reputation that a professionally qualified person deserves. It also gives you an opportunity to look at your skills and work out how to become a better, more effective engineer, which can only be a good thing!
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
My main ambition is to become an expert in my field and use my influence and experience to get the world excited about engineering. It is my hope, that seeing an LGBT woman from a comprehensive school doing great things will give the generations that follow me the confidence to get out there and show their engineering grit and determination.
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 volunteer as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador both as part of and outside of work which is incredibly fulfilling. My goal is to get young people interested in STEM and specifically engineering. I hope that my passion and excitement for my discipline can inspire more girls and LGBT people to enter the profession. I also mentor my colleagues to help them attain higher grades of membership in our institutions and professional registrations with the engineering council.
I am keen on undertaking upcycling projects when I have the time and can frequently be found building and enhancing enclosures for my cats and ducks at home or doing some ad-hoc artwork to keep the creative juices flowing.
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?
I identify as LGBT+ which, along with being female, does put me in one of the lowest represented groups in the profession. Our numbers are growing, with more and more people realising that engineering is an inclusive and diverse profession that relies heavily on the experience and knowledge of people from all walks of life to achieve our goals. The foundation of engineering is problem solving and, I can’t stress this enough, we can’t solve problems effectively if we don’t intimately understand them. In order to understand them we need people who have lived with and experienced the types of problems we are trying to solve, which means we all have a part to play in the future.