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Route into engineering
I was actually a mum at home, home-schooling my children and working part-time in a supermarket before I decided to go back to education at age 33 and undertake a full-time degree in aircraft maintenance engineering.
Upon graduating at 37, I secured a place on the Ministry of Defence's engineering and science graduate scheme which was amazing. I continued to work in the Ministry on equipment procurement programmes (aircraft, submarines etc.) and at the UK Military Aviation Authority and on a commercial airline placement.
I left the Ministry to teach aerospace engineering for a short while before going freelance as an engineer and project management specialist. I love being freelance because I can dedicate more time to my volunteering work in STEM activities and helping young people.
Freelance Engineer in Aerospace, Nuclear and Defence
I use the knowledge and skills developed as an aircraft engineer and from specialist training such as project management, to work on different exciting engineering and human development projects for different companies. This means my work is varied and can go from developing training solutions for BAE Systems Submarines to working on the maintenance programmes of military aircraft.
A typical day usually starts with a quick review of what I intend to accomplish on that day and for the rest of the week. Then I get on with the core work, usually involving analysis or investigation of some kind, recording results or observations, and coordinating my work with others to get action. I tend to work with a team, so good communication between team members is essential. When I am developing processes or training materials, I may put my headphones in and be engrossed for days, concentrating heavily in producing the final product without being interrupted!
I always loved aircraft and spacecraft as a child. But when I went on a school trip in 1983 to watch the Hollywood movie "The Right Stuff" which is all about the original space race between the US and Russia, I was hooked!!
The best thing is the variety of work and the ability to transfer engineering skills from one field to the other. I also find working with so many different people really life enriching. You get to see so many different viewpoints and experiences. It is really fulfilling.
The worst thing is that some type of work require a lot of concentration and little interruption. This is not always feasible when working in an open-plan office, and therefore it can be very difficult to get the work done. In such a situation, it is better to work in a quiet space or at home.
Get involved as much as possible with groups or associations related to your fields of interest. Give up some time to help as a volunteer or just take part in lectures or career events etc. The more you are involved with others, and talk to others and make yourself known, the better chance you will have of becoming very well informed, and thus able to make better decisions and choices.
The aviation industry has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a significant amount of skills in pilots and engineers which may be completely lost and this would be catastrophic. There is going to be an enormous amount of work required by all nations of Earth to help bring the aviation industry back up to its pre-Covid levels. I don't know how many years it will take. But I think that with the right attitude, and by encouraging and helping as many young people into the aviation and aerospace industries, we can do it sooner rather than later.