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Route into engineering
I completed a mechanical engineering apprenticeship over four years and then was sponsored by my employer to complete a five year part time BEng (Hons) mechanical engineering degree. The degree was day release which meant I was working for four days and on the fifth day I was at University. I initially worked as a quality engineer in a manufacturing company and then moved into a mechanical project engineering role. Looking for a new challenge I joined the London Fire Brigade as a fire safety officer and due to my background I was placed in the fire engineering group and was sponsored to undertake another part time degree. This time a four year BEng (Hons) in fire engineering which I completed on block release. In 2011 I gained professional registration as a Chartered Engineer, I am a Fellow with the Institution of fire engineers and an Associate with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. In 2020 I was also awarded the Queens Fire Service Medal for distinguished service in the Queen’s New Years Honours list.
Principal Fire Engineer at the London Fire Brigade
I’m proud to lead a team of specialist fire engineers. The team are a mix of operational and non operational team members (e.g. I am non-operational so am not a firefighter and have not been based on a fire station). We are a really diverse team of people with different backgrounds and routes into our roles but we combine together with a drive for public and firefighter safety which is at the core of everything that we do.
Our team are responsible for reviewing building designs with a focus on the fire safety design. We get involved where the building design doesn’t follow what is termed a ‘prescriptive’ design so anything that is unusual or innovative in some way. This could be anything from the way in which it has been constructed to internal layouts or fire safety systems that are proposed. Our focus is on members of the public and firefighter safety, in the event of a fire in the built environment. We also undertake a wide variety of other roles including:
- supporting our enforcement teams,
- assessing whether existing buildings are safe to be occupied,
- representing the Brigade, and sometimes the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) on technical committees and steering groups
My role often involves representing the LFB or at times NFCC on technical steering groups or committees.
Working for an emergency service there are some days when what you had planned can change pretty rapidly as we respond to perhaps; a serious fire incident where the building may not have reacted the way it was predicted too or if a local fire safety officer needs support in assessing if a building is safe to remain occupied. Other days can be filled with meetings or reading technical reports and compiling a response of our critical analysis of what has been submitted. Sometimes I have to present technical matters to senior LFB managers or to government officials which can be challenging dependent on the topic material.
Carry on working hard as the hard work will pay off. Have courage in your convictions and remain true to yourself.
My dad inspired me to get into engineering. He is an electrician and as a child I would sometimes go to work with him on a Saturday to watch and help. I wanted to be an engineer from around the age of 8 – I was fascinated by how things were put together and worked.
I feel fortunate to have a couple of stand out moments thus far. The first was being nominated and awarded the Queens Fire Service Medal for my service, this is something that my family and I are incredibly proud of. Becoming Chartered was an incredible moment too on a personal level. More related to work, I have some projects I was very proud to work on – one being the London 2012 Olympics where I worked on several of the venues and the Athlete’s Village. Recently I was also the LFB lead for a children’s book aimed at tackling gender stereotyping in careers – it is called ‘my mummy is a firefighter’.
Being part of a professional institution is really important and it is an expectation within our team that everyone will become a member of our professional institution and to progress and aim towards professional registration at the right stage of their development.
I’ve joined WES because there are still not enough women in engineering and it is imperative that those of us who are in engineering roles (that we love) network and share our stories with others such that we can seek to inspire the next generation.