Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Delphine Ryan

Delphine Ryan

Delphine Ryan

I embarked on a full-time aircraft maintenance engineering degree in my mid-30s after spending close to 15 years raising my children (and holding part-time and self-employed jobs during that time).  I originally thought that with my age, I had missed the opportunity to train as an aircraft or aeronautical engineer which had been a childhood ambition.  However, by chance I came upon the excellent Access to Higher Education route offered by many colleges across the country and eventually graduated, with first class, an IET-accredited degree in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering.


During my studies, I was lucky to have secured the goodwill and help of the Flybe engineering team at Manchester airport who allowed me to gain invaluable experience by working directly on aircraft maintenance at the airport under the close supervision of licensed and competent aircraft maintenance engineers. Working on live aircraft was fantastic.


I graduated in June 2013 and only two months later, by mid-August (and at 38 years old), I was successful in securing a graduate job with Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence. The Defence Engineering & Science Group (DESG) graduate scheme lasts 2 years and is accredited by all major engineering institutions such as the IET, the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers etc. I was the oldest on the scheme but it was great to see that the MoD did not discriminate because of age or sex and only took on graduates based on qualifications, competence and assessment results.


Through this scheme, I was able to work with a major UK airline at Manchester airport and acquire invaluable experience and knowledge in aircraft maintenance engineering, quality auditing and continuing airworthiness (keeping aircraft safe to fly). I then moved on to the UK Military Aviation Authority (MAA) which is the equivalent of its civil counterpart, the Civil Aviation Authority. The MAA is responsible for military aviation safety in the UK.


I am now continuing to work in aviation-related projects and aeronautical teams throughout DE&S. I continue to learn and develop as an engineer all the time which is very satisfying. My principal interests lie in continuing airworthiness, aircraft maintenance engineering and the training and competence-building of engineers and particularly aircraft maintenance engineers.


I find going to work every day exciting and my current career and situation is a far cry from the part-time Sainsbury’s sales assistant job I held but only 4 years ago before leaving it to study my engineering degree full-time!


Therefore, I would like to encourage any woman, younger or older, who has ever had the wish to have an engineering or STEM career (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) but who somehow never quite got there, to realise that one is never too old to start something anew.  If going to university seems too daunting, then there are many colleges up and down the country which provide excellent routes into engineering for everyone. I am personally very glad I did it this way around, raising my children first and, as they grew older, finally studying for a new career.  I found my “life experience” to have been invaluable in getting me through.


I also like to remind people that the word “engineering” derives from the Latin word ingenium which means “skills, genius, invention”.  Since the beginning of time in the world in which we live, from methods of transportation, to agriculture, construction, irrigation, sewerage systems, ancient and new war machines, children’s toys, mobile phones, satellites, household appliances, furniture, textiles, manufacture, dentistry, hospitals, medicine, ad infinitum… someone, somewhere, individually or as a group, had a bright idea and made that idea a reality:  THAT is the world of engineering and it is a world open to anyone who wishes to enter it.


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