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Growing up I was a pony mad girl and I don’t ever really remember getting involved with anything mechanical although I was very practical and would always be full of ideas. I had intended to be a vet but as I hit my teenage years and found school wasn’t stretching me I became bored and switched off and hardly attended school in my GCSE years preferring instead to sneak away and spend time with horses much to my parents and teachers frustration. I still managed to obtain reasonable grades for my GCSEs and went back to 6th form but this only lasted a matter of weeks when I realised I couldn’t take the mix of subjects I wanted and boredom once again set in. A year of drifting running a livery stables and selling horses followed until my lightbulb moment occurred.
A friend was visiting an agricultural college she was considering going to and asked me to go with her, whilst touring the engineering block something just dropped into place and I suddenly felt – I can do that! I soon enrolled at the college and signed up to train to be an agricultural engineer (a glorified tractor mechanic for the uninitiated) at the same time another lightbulb moment occurred I discovered motorbikes which were to become my enduring lifelong passion.
At college I was a bit of an oddity as at that stage they had never had a girl on the course or even full time in the department but I’m happy to say that changed and by my second year 2 more girls had joined the college and the numbers multiplied year on year so although still in the minority I’m confident girls can embark on a course without feeling like they are alone. I was a bit behind most of the other students when I started as I had no mechanical background at all and they had generally grown up tinkering with machinery but over time the gap lessened and I became more confident.
I was often asked if physical strength was an issue working on tractors, I would like to think I could hold my own in most situations however the reality is some situations require extreme brute force and it just flexes your intellectual muscle to develop a way to complete a job and I often found that the men that worked with me would then take on my methods to save straining themselves as well.
My career developed in an enjoyable but haphazard way and for several years I ran my own specialist hire repair and training business before selling out to a competitor and I have worked as a technician and service manager in the Agricultural, Marine, Motorcycle & Truck industries before finding myself in what would normally have been a graduate job working for a truck manufacturer looking after large fleet customers and dealers. From this I have moved onto my dream job working as an aftersales field coordinator for Triumph Motorcycles and I could not be happier.
No two days are the same my flexibility and varied experience are what makes me the right fit for the job. I can meet with a dealer principle one day to discuss aftersales profitability the next I can be meeting with customers to resolve problems, technicians to offer assistance with a mechanical or electrical problem, test riding motorcycles or preparing & delivering technical training courses & customer events.
For any woman considering a career in engineering I would say find the path that feels right for you, be it university, college, apprenticeship or a foothold job learning as you go and find a discipline that interests you enough that you can thrive. Being passionate about what you do is enough to quieten the naysayers and enthusiasm and dedication will always help you to float to the top.