Nicola's story is electrifying:
I found my way into engineering in a similar way to many I've met; because I enjoyed maths, physics and computing at school but didn't want to study any of these by themselves at University. I was aware of engineering because my step-dad is an electrical engineer and so started looking at the engineering courses in the prospectuses. It was difficult to decide between all the different types so eventually I settled on a joint degree between both electrical and mechanical; mainly because the University emphasised how challenging it would be and I enjoy a challenge.
I loved my years at University and made use of the summer holidays to explore potential careers; spending every summer in different departments of a consultancy firm through an IET scholarship and also using one summer to investigate whether research suited me. Both were great experiences where I learned a lot, including the fact that neither suited me. After University I took the opportunity to spend 18 months volunteering as a teacher with the African Children's Choir which allowed me to develop softer-skills which have been useful to me since my return to engineering, including a greater level of self-awareness than I had on graduating. It was difficult returning to engineering as I had forgotten a great deal in my time away but the things I need have come back to me and I know where to look for the rest.
Now I work as a network analyst at National Grid, exploring how the gas transmission network will need to adapt to meet future needs in the UK. I joined the company through the graduate programme which offered a great deal of training and experience in different parts of the business. I love engineering because of the chance to solve problems which impact upon everybody’s day to day life; whether it’s ensuring that people can turn their heating on, or improving the cars they drive to work; designing the bridges they cross or serving in the military. There are hundreds of ways to be an engineer so my advice to anyone would be to investigate and try them out.
The reason I love what I do is that I know it has value to people across the country, it improves their lives and challenges me at the same time. The more I meet people around the company the more potential career paths open before my eyes; but what drives me is doing work that I enjoy with good people. Because I am interested in the wider energy industry I make sure I keep up with developments by going to talks from the IET and IGEM as well as reading news articles because there is a great deal of change taking place, making it a particular exciting time to get into the sector.