Inspirational Interviews – Vibhusha Raval

Hi! This week it is time for another installment of our ‘Inspirational Interviews’ series!

Today we are sharing Vibhusha Raval’s story, she works for BT as a Graduate Automation Delivery Manager.

She joined BT last September and has already got involved with, learnt and delivered so much!

Read on to find out more about Vibhusha and her journey so far!

Tell us about your current job
I’m Vibhusha Raval, and I’m a Graduate Automation Delivery Manager at BT working in the IT division. I work with teams across BT such as Wholesale, Finance and Networks to identify, design and deliver automation solutions. The role involves liaising with a broad range of stakeholders to understand the processes that are mundane and repetitive. These processes are best suited for automation and can deliver benefits to the business and free up the time for employees to do creative and complex decision-making work that requires emotional intelligence. I enjoy interacting with various stakeholders and learning about different parts of BT to broaden my horizons.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I studied a BSc (hons) in Computer Science and a MSc in Information Systems at Kingston University. I didn’t really have any family or friends who had done Computing, so it was solely my intrigue and enthusiasm to try something different and to see how I’d find it. I am one of those people who start liking what they do. I learnt about many aspects of Computing, such as databases, networks, security, design and programming. I also learnt about the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and really enjoyed managing projects at Uni.

How did you get to where you are today?
I truly believe that if you want to achieve something you will find ways to make it work. Just like when you’re not committed to something then you’ll find excuses to not make it work! I studied up until my A Levels in India and came to UK when I was 18. I worked part time (3 days a week at a minimum and through the holidays) throughout my bachelor’s to fund my degree, which was very difficult but a necessity. I have full support from my family and that was a great plus point. Many challenges were thrown my way which not many 18-year-olds would usually have to deal with, but I kept a positive outlook and dealt with challenges one by one. The journey was anything but easy, but when you aim higher, the obstacles become opportunities. Prior to joining BT, I worked at a restaurant for nearly 5 years, so I didn’t really have any industry experience. What I had was even more valuable, the experience of approaching people with ease and a smile, which definitely helps me in my current role when I face any challenges.

What does your typical day look like?
Every day is unique and brings different opportunities which is what I enjoy the most about my role. I am a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and have done a course on Agile Project Management. These two courses have been very useful to me as Technology products and service deliveries are swiftly moving towards the Agile framework. In the pre-pandemic world, I would meet the SME (Subject Matter Expert) in person to identify the requirements and update them on the deliveries that I was working on. However it has been a bit different since I started working from home, the face-to-face meetings are replaced by video conference calls and coffee with colleagues has been replaced by virtual catch ups. I try and keep a few minutes gap between long meetings so I can get up and stretch as I like to work for longer hours sitting in one place to concentrate, but that isn’t too good for the body. I have become accustomed to working from home and have tried to make the necessary changes to keep it healthy. My day ends with writing a to-do list for the next day.

What are your career highlights so far?
I achieved a competitive scholarship to pursue my MSc degree based on my excellent academic results and my passion for Technology. I joined BT and I have been recognised for my volunteering work, which is dear to my heart. I got rewarded for delivering great results for my team, which was fantastic because I take pride in quick and successful delivery of services to our customers. I was also invited to BBC Radio Suffolk to speak about my experiences and it was very well received by the audience. These are some of the highlights from the past 10 months, in my current role. I definitely encourage young people to dream big and go beyond limits to achieve your goals!

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love playing badminton, going for long walks, reading books and learning new skills which can help me excel in my life. I am passionate about helping others, so in my free time every weekend, I mentor young people virtually and help them rise above their challenges and choose STEM as a career because it’s truly worth it!

Thank you very much to Vibhusha for taking the time to tell us her story!

2SistersInSTEM

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My Engineering Internship Experience

Hi, Maisie here! A couple of weeks ago I finished my year long internship at Boeing Defence UK as an ILS (Integrated Logistical Support) Engineer. I thought now would be a great opportunity for me to reflect back on it. A chance for me to share my experience, talk about my motivation and look back on what I have learnt over the past year. Hopefully this will be interesting and useful if you are thinking of doing something similar in the future!

I knew that I wanted to take a year out during my degree to do an engineering internship. I have always wanted to get hands on industrial experience in the aerospace sector before I committed to a full-on job. The process began in the September of my 2nd year at university. I started the application process and submitted applications for many different internships.

I applied to a lot of different companies as I had heard that industrial internships are really competitive and that I would probably get a fair amount of rejections. I also knew it was going to be long process, it can sometimes take months to get a reply from companies let alone an invite to an interview or assessment centre. To help me keep track of my applications I made a huge spreadsheet to track the progress of each application.

I used Gradcracker to find placements to apply for. You can set filters and preferences so you are notified by email when you can apply for a placement in your area of interest (for me it was aerospace engineering). I would definitely recommend not making your search too narrow, I also looked at more mechanical engineering and general engineering placements too.

The application process for most companies is lengthy and I had to put in a lot of time and effort. Whenever I wasn’t in a lecture I was applying, updating my CV, altering cover letters for different companies and answering application questions. Some companies also have long online tests such as situational judgments and personality tests you need to complete.

A few weeks after submitting my Boeing application, I got a call from the head of early careers and was invited to an assessment centre in Bristol, this included a team task and interview. Only a couple of weeks after the assessment centre I got another call and was told I had got the placement! They also gave me some constructive criticism from the assessment day about what I could have improved which was fantastic to receive. I found out I would be working for Boeing Defence UK as an ILS (Integrated Logistical Support) engineer. I was over the moon that I would have the chance to work for an aerospace company as I always had my heart set on that.

My placement was in Gosport, Hampshire so that was a massive change for me. I come from Lincolnshire and go to university in Sheffield so it was in a completely different part of the country than I’m used to! I decided to live in Southsea, close to Portsmouth, the previous intern gave me her recommendations and said there was lots going on there. I ended up finding a flat literally a 1 minute walk from the seafront. I can drive so I commuted to work every day, I got very used to motorway driving by the end of the year!

I was very lucky to be able to live by myself, I knew that working a full time job would be tiring and when I came home I would want to be able to relax and have my own space. I had never lived alone before and I ended up really loving it! I found I am very happy and comfortable in my own company. However it was a big change from university because, unlike Uni there are not lots of people is in the same boat as you, moving to a new place where they don’t know anyone.

When I started my job I was pretty nervous as it was all so new to me. Both my stand in manager and team lead were on holiday so there was a little bit of uncertainty, but I cracked on with the online training for the first few days. I felt really welcome in the team and everyone was friendly, I was the only young person in the office on my floor for the first 3 months so that was an adjustment from what i was used to at university!

My working day was 0700-1600 and I did reduced hours on Friday. Most people in the engineering office did these hours and I enjoyed it, it was nice to have a proper routine. I had never done a full time job like this before so it definitely took me some time to get used to it. And it was a contrast to university as I never had a strict structure to my week. It worked well for me as I felt I could do more with my day getting home at 1630 and the short day on a Friday also gave me more freedom to visit people or go out to the shops or cinema when it was less busy!

I absolutely loved my time at BDUK. I learnt so much from the people in my team. A lot of the people I worked with were ex-military, this meant they had incredible first hand knowledge of the aircraft and had numerous stories about their time in the RAF or Navy! The best part was that only a few months in I felt like a true part of the team, not just the intern. I proved myself and my team believed in me which is a great feeling.

Work Highlights

  • Getting the chance to go on a Chinook and have a hanger tour
  • Having my corrosion investigation presented to the MoD
  • My engine data analysis being discussed in Phoenix, USA
  • Flew up to Almondbank in Scotland for site tour and meetings
  • Presenting at the ‘Girls in Engineering’ day at the Boeing Gatwick learning centre
  • Meeting so many new incredible people, including people from the USA and Australia
  • Personal development, I definitely feel a lot more confident in myself and my ability as an engineer
  • Going to the Young Women in Engineering Awards hosted by the IET

Southsea Highlights

  • I got to fly a plane!
  • Living so close to the seaside
  • Amazing theatres close by such as Chichester Festival Theatre, Kings Theatre, Mayflower Theatre – Southampton
  • Gunwharf Quays was very close by (very good for bottomless brunches)
  • Lovely independent shops and restaurants in Southsea

I learnt so much about working in the aerospace industry and about the career I think I want to pursue in the future. Over this past year I have had lots of great experiences which have helped me improve my skills and develop as a person!

I would definitely recommend doing an internship!

Maisie

2SistersinSTEM

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7 STEM Careers You Might Not Have Heard Of

Hi, Lily here! Today I am going to be talking about STEM careers you might not have heard of before.

It can be really difficult to know what career you might be interested in or what kind of job you think you would like to do. Once I had decided on studying Physics at university I thought that would make it easier to decide what career I might want to pursue, but in a way I think it made it even more tricky! As I worked through my degree and took the opportunities to gain experience in different areas I realised there were so many more careers out there than I ever thought possible!

As I discovered when I was researching possible career paths, there are so many resources all over the internet to help you find out about careers and about how you can pursue them! One of the most useful and clear is bbc bitesize careers. You can search for a job and find out from someone who does it how they started their career. You can also search for a subject you like and then see related careers you might be interested in – very useful if you’re an indecisive person like me!

Another really useful website for researching jobs is prospects where you can find extensive lists of jobs you could pursue depending on your favourite subject at school or what you are studying at University! To find out what apprenticeship might suit you best based on your interests, the apprenticeships.gov.uk website is a really good resource too!

So let’s crack on, these are 7 really interesting STEM careers that you might not have even know existed!

  1. Prosthetist

Prosthetists and orthotists care for people who need an artificial limb or a device to support or control part of their body.

Working as a prothestist might include:

  • designing and fitting surgical appliances (orthotics) like braces, callipers and splints
  • assessing a patient’s needs before they have an artificial limb or appliance fitted
  • taking measurements and using computer modelling to produce a design of the prosthetics or orthotics
  • carrying out follow-up checks with patients to see how they are coping with their device
  • making sure the appliance or limb is functioning properly, and is comfortable
  • carrying out adjustments or repairs

This is Becky, she’s a prosthetist and you can find out more about job and her story here

2. Patent Attorney

Patent attorneys advise clients on how to apply for patents on new inventions, designs or processes. To do this you need an understanding of scientific and technological principles and processes in order to understand the invention yourself and be able to explain it to others.

Working as patent attorney may include:

  • meeting inventors or manufacturers 
  • searching existing patents to check the invention or design is original
  • writing a detailed legal description of the invention or design – known as a patent draft
  • applying for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
  • advising clients whose patent rights may have been broken
  • representing clients if a case comes to court
  • advising on other issues like design rights and copyright

This is George, he is a Trainee Patent Attorney. To find out more about what the job is like and his story check out the video below

3. Games Designer

As a games designer, you use creative and technical skills to design video games. You bring ideas, build prototypes, create interactive narration and develop the game’s mechanics.

Working as a games designer may include:

  • using your creativity to design games for a range of devices and platforms that engage and capture the imagination of the user
  • consider, plan and detail every element of a new game including the setting, rules, story flow, props, vehicles, character interface and modes of play
  • creating a concept document and using this to convince the development team that the game is worth proceeding with
  • conducting market research to understand what your target audience wants
  • leading on the user experience (UX) design of the game, ensuring players have the best experience

This is Rhianne, she’s a games designer and you can find out more about her story here

4. Solar Farm Manager

A solar farm manager, manages a number of solar farm sites across the UK, these are fields of solar panels storing and converting energy from the sun.

Working as a solar farm manager might include:

  • Dividing your time between office-based work and visiting sites to check they are running correctly
  • In the office you could be checking power and energy readings to make sure the solar panels are working correctly
  • When visiting sites you might be inspecting the cables and electrical equipment. Including measuring the output of electrical current from solar panels, and using thermal cameras to check the temperature of the cables is within a safe range

This is Manish, he is a solar farm manager and you can find out more about his story here

5. Cyber Security Analyst

Cyber security analysts help to protect an organisation by employing a range of technologies and processes to prevent, detect and manage cyber threats. This can include protection of computers, data, networks and programmes.

Working in cyber security might include:

  • researching/evaluating emerging cyber security threats and ways to manage them
  • planning for disaster recovery in the event of any security breaches
  • monitoring for attacks, intrusions and unusual, unauthorised or illegal activity
  • designing new security systems or upgrade existing ones
  • engaging in ‘ethical hacking’, for example, simulating security breaches
  • identify potential weaknesses and implement measures, such as firewalls and encryption

Funmi works in cyber security you can find out more about her job and her journey below

6. Ecologist

As an ecologist, you’ll be concerned with ecosystems – the abundance and distribution of organisms (people, plants, animals), and the relationships between organisms and their environment. You usually specialise in a particular area, such as freshwater, marine, terrestrial, fauna or flora, and carry out a range of tasks relating to that area.

Working as an ecologist might include:

  • conducting field surveys to collect biological information about the numbers and distribution of organisms
  • carrying out taxonomy – the classification of organisms
  • using a range of sampling and surveying techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), aerial photography, records and maps
  • carrying out environmental impact assessments
  • analysing and interpret data, using specialist software programs
  • working on habitat management and creation
  • keeping up to date with new environmental policies and legislation

Gabrielle is an ecologist, you can find out more about her job and her story here

Gabrielle at work, smiling to camera.

7. Science Journalist

As a science journalist you’ll research, write and edit scientific news, articles and features, for business, trade and professional publications, specialist scientific and technical journals, and the general media. Science writers need to understand complex scientific information, theories and practices and be able to write in clear, concise and accurate language that can be understood by the general public.

Working as a science journalist might include :

  • producing articles for publication in print and online
  • conducting interviews with scientists, doctors and academics and establishing a network of industry experts
  • attending academic and press conferences
  • visiting research establishments
  • reading and researching specialist media and literature, e.g. scientific papers, company reports, newspapers, magazines and journals, press releases and internet resources including social media
  • attending meetings or taking part in conference calls with clients, scientists or other writers
  • reviewing and amending work in response to editor feedback

Rosie is a science journalist you can find out more about her job and her story here

A young woman stands smiling at the camera in front of her busy desk, with her arms folded

There are so many exciting STEM careers out there! It really is incredible the variety that are available and the number of different pathways you can take to end up working in STEM!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Anne McIlveen

Hi everyone, hope you are all doing okay! This week we are back again with another inspirational interview!

Today we are sharing Anne McIlveen’s story, she works in the aerospace engineering sector as a Field Services Engineer at Boeing. Anne started at Boeing as a summer intern and has basically never left!

Keep on reading to find out more about Anne and her journey so far.

Tell us about your current job.
Anne McIlveen – I am a Boeing Field Services Engineer, working to provide around the clock support for all of Boeing’s customers who operate the C-17 Globemaster III military cargo transport aircraft.

Who/What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
When I was little I didn’t know what I wanted to do, in fact I don’t think I even knew what a professional engineer was until I was 17. However, I was lucky enough to receive some very good advice; “pick a thing/subject you love, if you love something it’s much easier to spend time getting good at it.” As a result I just kept pursuing the subjects in school that I enjoyed.

How did you get to where you are today?
Whilst studying for my A-levels (Maths, Physics, and History) I was fortunate enough to be able to do a week of work experience in Bombardier Aerospace Belfast. After climbing over a Tucano fatigue specimen aircraft and learning about Non-destructive Testing techniques and composite materials I knew aerospace engineering was for me. During the summer of my second year at university I managed to secure a summer internship with the Boeing engineering team at Royal Air Force Brize Norton supporting the C-17. Almost 5 years later and I’m still there today. Recently I’ve just been awarded C-17 Delegated Engineering Authority, which means I’m now able to release new structural repair procedures for any aircraft in the worldwide C-17 fleet.

What does your typical day look like?
As a Field Engineer I’m based on a military establishment. My day often starts by discussing the flying programme and which aircraft the Customer needs engineering assistance with. After that my days can vary a lot. Sometimes I spend most of the day at the desk designing a new repair, and answering a variety of technical queries, whilst others can be spent on the aircraft investigating and helping solve problems.  As the C-17 plays such a vital role in national defence, it’s important that our customers can get around-the-clock technical assistance. This means that every few weeks I also provide 24/7 on-call engineering support.

What are your career highlights so far?
Last year I was lucky enough to spend 3 months in California working with our head office stress analysis department. Whilst there I got to attend the annual Women in Aviation Conference, which was a fantastic experience. Although it’s pretty hard to top that, anytime I’ve been able to help our customers fix an aircraft and fly an important mission has been pretty cool. For example, at the moment we’ve been doing lots of flights to supply PPE for COVID-19 relief efforts.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy doing lots of sport – swimming, cycling, running and stand-up paddle boarding. The more time I can spend outdoors the better!

Thank you very much Anne for sharing your story with us!

Lily & Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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STEM Books – ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’

Hi, it’s Maisie! Today I am going to be talking books! In particular a recent STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related book I have read, which I just had to recommend.

Over the past year, whilst I have been working in industry I have really got back into reading. I am using Goodreads which is an app where I can track my reading progress. My aim for 2020 is to read 35 books and I think I might actually achieve it! I have already read 20 books this year so I’m well on my way. Now that we have been in lock down for a fair few weeks, I have been reading even more, especially in the evenings. I thought I would have a chat about my favourite STEM book of the year so far!

I have recently finished reading ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’ by Stephen Hawking. This was his final book and had not actually been completed when Stephen Hawking passed away. It was finished in collaboration with “his academic colleagues, his family and the Stephen Hawking Estate”. This book is a collation and reflection on everything he studied and thought about throughout his lifetime.

Professor Stephen Hawking was a Theoretical Physicist, one of the most internationally recognised scientists of our time. Some of his research includes the big bang and black holes. A lot of his research was pioneering, he even proposed a theory for black hole radiation that was named after him – Hawking radiation.

Within the book there are 10 wide-ranging chapters, in each Hawking aims to answer some of the universe’s largest and most complex questions.

  • Is there a God?
  • How did it all begin?
  • Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
  • Can we predict the future?
  • What is inside a black hole?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • Will we survive on Earth?
  • Should we colonise space?
  • Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
  • How do we shape the future?

I love how, throughout the chapters, you get to see Stephen’s sense of humour within his writing, it is a very enjoyable and entertaining read. Hawking’s excellence and true genius shines throughout his writing. I really appreciated the way Stephen approached the topics in question and answered them in an understanding and inclusive way. These are some potentially contentious topics, but he discusses them brilliantly.

The book does contain some scientific explanations but they all have a purpose and Stephen does a great job at making the topics understandable for all. This book can be easily enjoyed and understood by anyone, irrespective of age or scientific understanding which is a pretty mean feat! Hawking uses his words carefully and sparingly so everything said within the book holds real meaning.

My favourite chapters were those that tackle the questions of our future. If humans should colonise space and how that would affect us all. Also how AI (artificial intelligence) will contribute to the future of technology and if we will be able to control its rapid development. All the answers are very thought provoking and I reread them just to digest all aspects of the response.

The heartfelt afterword by Lucy Hawking (Stephen Hawking’s daughter) is a lovely ending to an ever so intriguing book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore the big questions of our world. I was always a little nervous to read a book by such a iconic scientist, I thought I would be way out my depth but actually the way Stephen Hawking writes is so accessible. Definitely go give this book a read!

Maisie

2SistersinSTEM

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Why Physics – What Inspired Me To Study Physics?

Hi, Lily here! Today I’m going to be chatting about why I decided to do a Physics degree. What inspired me and ultimately how I made my decision to apply to university to study Physics. Did I listen to my head or my heart? Were there any particular events or moments which helped me make my decision? What or who inspired me?

I first started thinking about what I might want to study at university when I was choosing my A Level options, so that would have been just before I took my GCSE exams. At this point I was pretty set on going to university as I loved learning and wanted to study something in more depth but I wasn’t entirely sure what that was going to be quite yet!

The first time I submitted my A Level choices I definitely went with the subjects I most enjoyed, I definitely went with my heart! I chose Maths, Physics, Chemistry and History. I knew quite early on that although I loved the sciences, I was more passionate about Physics and Chemistry than Biology. However this caused me a bit of a dilemma!

At school, because I was good at the sciences I was never really encouraged to study anything apart from Medicine. In general, schools often steer you towards becoming a doctor if you are good at the sciences and towards becoming a lawyer if you are good at the arts. This meant I felt quite confused as to what I should do! I found there was not a lot of advice or direction given to me beyond that and of course ‘Do what you enjoy!’.

Although I definitely believe you should follow the advice ‘Do what you enjoy!’ you do need to think a bit more deeply than that! I think the important questions you need to ask yourself are ‘What interests you the most?’, ‘What are you the most intrigued by?’ and ‘What do you want to keep learning about the most?’.

I am really glad that I decided to follow my heart and went on to study physics, however there are so many other options available if you think you would be interested in doing something more applied or specific!

I didn’t have a lot of experience when it came to something more applied like engineering (which my sister decided to study a couple years after me!) or computer science. Looking back I think I would have also enjoyed these, but at the time I definitely made the best decision for me! When I finished my physics degree I had lots of career options open to me and I am very thankful for that! It also meant I got to learn a really broad amount of content at university which again I really enjoyed!

However if you feel that your interest lies in something more specific then I would definitely recommend pursuing it! When you complete your studies you will have a really deep knowledge of that particular field which will put you at an advantage when looking for jobs in your particular area. However if you are more undecided on what you think you might want to do in the future, like I was, then a broader choice might be the better way to go!

During the summer before I started my A Levels I had pretty much decided I wanted to study Physics at university! In particular I had read some brilliant Physics books which inspired me and opened my eyes to the incredible things I could learn about. Studying Physics gives you a better understanding of everything in the world around us, from the very small (e.g. quantum physics) to the incredibly vast (e.g. astrophysics)! I realised there was so much more for me to find out and learn about. So many unanswered questions and brilliant theories yet to discover!

Once I was set on studying Physics at university, I decided to reassess my A Level choices. I talked to my teachers and agreed it would make more sense for me to study Further Maths instead of History. I made the decision based on the fact it would benefit me in the long run as I would have a better mathematical knowledge as I started my degree (looking back I think it definitely made the maths content in my degree easier to get to grips with!).

Over the years I think my passion for Physics was sparked by these key events and sources of inspiration:

  • Reading physics related books, in particular this one ‘The Particle At The End Of The Universe’ by Sean Carroll – It is all about particle physics and the hunt to find the Higgs Boson particle, it really inspired me and got me thinking more deeply about physics!
  • Visiting the Science Museum, London – throughout my childhood I was incredibly lucky to visit a few times! I always loved the ‘Exploring Space’ gallery the most, seeing all the rockets and space suits right up close like that!
  • Visiting CERN when I was 15 – we were staying in France just across the border from Geneva, Switzerland. We made a pretty unplanned trip over there and looked around the visitor centre and I was absolutely fascinated by it all! CERN is the The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the site of the Large Hadron Collider  – the world’s largest and highest energy particle collider (I will go into much more depth in a future post!)
  • Discovering Richard Feynman – a brilliant physicist and science communicator, Richard Feynman’s lectures opened my eyes to what university level physics might be like, you can watch videos of him lecturing on Youtube and all his lectures are free to read online!

Looking back and reflecting on the things that inspired me has been so, so interesting! I don’t come from a particularly science – y family so never felt compelled to study science, or to follow anyone I knew into science! I followed the path I did purely because I was interested and passionate about it! I wanted to learn more and I believed I could do it because of the support I was given from the amazing people around me!

Reflecting on this makes me even more passionate about increasing the visibility of female role models working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)! So young people can see people that look like them or come from the same background as them, studying or working in an area they are passionate about! It makes something you might think is impossible, seem much more possible!

What do you think inspires you?

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Ella Podmore

Welcome to the first of our ‘Inspirational People’ interviews! We hope to make this a monthly series where we talk to amazing women doing incredible things in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths).

Hopefully these ‘Inspirational Interviews’ will give an eye-opening insight into the brilliant variety of roles there are on offer in STEM industries!

We will be talking to inspirational people about how they got to where they are today and what their job is all about!

Today we are talking to Ella Podmore – Lead Materials Engineer at McLaren Automotive! Read on to find out more…

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us about your current job?
Ella Podmore, I am lead materials engineer for McLaren Automotive. I am responsible for all material-related investigations within the business, right from R&D (Research & Development) projects into new material technology, through to problems we have on cars in the customer field.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I loved solving problems! I grew up around cars and watching F1, so had a dream I would be involved somehow. I knew I wanted to go down an engineering based route, but it wasn’t until I explored the more chemical areas of engineering (such as chemical/materials) that I understood materials engineering excites me most and appeared to have the best career opportunities in every industry (because everything is made from something!)

How did you get to where you are today?
Endless amounts of work experience allowed me to explore what areas of engineering I was interested in. After two insight programs at investment banks I also realised I wanted to be involved in the business-side of things too.
Studied a masters of engineering in materials engineering at Manchester university. My third year was an industrial placement year for which I managed to persuade McLaren to take me on as their first materials engineer! After what seemed like a 12 month interview, I was able to get a thesis topic from them to complete my degree with and after successfully solving a problem for McLaren, they offered me a job afterwards. 1.5 years later, and here I am!

What does your typical day look like?
I typically spend 40% of my time in the laboratory, conducting tests on materials or analysing components, the rest of the time is spent in meetings or report writing.
I always start my day crunching emails and organising my schedule, people often know this and catch me at my desk at this time! Probably answers 2-3 queries from other engineers who are after materials advice. Then meetings up until lunch on business or project updates, after which I go on a long run (most days!), so important to have a break.
After lunch I work in the laboratory on components given to me from the track or investigation work.
I finish up with further emails and report writing before heading home!

What are your career highlights so far?
Career highlights: travelling to Australia for the Melbourne Grand Prix, on blue peter for my contribution for STEM, being a case study for Harper Collins’ fictional inspiration series “big idea engineer”, achieving top 10 Autocar rising star for 2019
Future plans: will be to grow my department at McLaren and continue to help McLaren achieve technological excellence.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I contribute a lot to STEM; visiting schools in my spare time to discuss career opportunities as well as many public speaking events. This is all done alongside my technical work, but other than my job I love to exercise – frequently competing in short distance running events – I play a bit of piano as well but I mainly enjoy a good brunch!

Thanks Ella for taking the time to share your story!

Lily & Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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Adapting To Working From Home

Whether you are at school, university or in the wonderful world of work, over the past few weeks you have most likely experienced some serious upheaval! One possible consequence of the difficult situation we are currently in is that you might now be working from home.

To all the extraordinary key workers out there who are keeping people safe, fed, connected and cared for – a massive thank you from us both!

The UK has now been in lockdown for over 40 days, and myself and Maisie have been living and working from my flat together. We usually live a good few hours away from each other so it has been a bit of a change for both of us! It has been really nice to be spending lots more time together – that said adjusting to living and working in a confined space has been interesting to say the least!

I have created a little home office at one end of the dining table and Maisie has set up camp at the other end. This makes for some fun when we both realise we have a work call at the same time and one of us has to shift it and get out of the room pronto!

However I am very glad for some company in the ‘office’. With the highlight of course being taking it in turns (kind of) to keep the constant flow of cups of tea coming. Luckily we work similar hours so we work in tandem – not causing too many distractions for each other! However as Maisie starts super early throughout the week she finishes earlier than me on a Friday – so Friday afternoon can be a bit of a struggle!

The majority of the work me and Maisie do is computer based, so we are lucky enough that we are able to do it remotely! We are both still working on similar projects to the ones we were before the lockdown started – so we haven’t had a big change there. However there has obviously been changes in how we communicate with our teams and how we progress our work forward. It has all been a really interesting learning experience and we are both trying to continually improve the way we work every day!

It has been a challenging process adapting to our new ‘normal’ – at least for the foreseeable future. In this strange time, there have been and will continue to be good days and bad days, but adapting to a new situation is always a tricky thing to do.

We have tried to create a routine in this strange and uncertain time to give us some kind of structure. This is definitely a help to us, it defines our time a little more. It means we know what day of the week it is at the very least – the days do have a tendency to merge together a little bit at the moment!

The extra time can be both a blessing and curse. It has given us time to work on projects (like this blog), read more books, improve our coding skills and spend more time together. However it also gives you the time to overthink things, worry and become anxious over little things that normally in our busy lives we don’t have the time to register!

Here are some of the things we have been finding the most useful whilst working from home so far:

  • trying to create a space in your home where you just do work – separate to where you relax.
  • setting a time for lunch and moving away from your working set up to take a break.
  • going outside, whether this is during your lunch break, before or after work – make sure you step outside and try and get some fresh air.
  • making sure you decide on a time to finish your working day – it can be easy to let work creep on longer than you usually would do being home all the time.
  • making a plan for what you will do after work – plan to watch a particular movie or TV show, to have a bath, read a book or cook a specific meal.

Stay home and stay safe everyone!

If you are working from home right now, how are you finding it?

Lily & Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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3 STEM Podcasts I’m Loving Right Now

Over the last few years I have become obsessed with podcasts! I started with ‘Potterless’, a podcast following a grown man reading Harry Potter for the first time. Since then I have enjoyed all kinds of podcast on topics ranging from food chats to historical figures.

I love listening and learning and find podcasts a really great way to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. I thought I’d share some of the STEM themed podcasts that I have been absorbed in recently!

30 Animals That Made Us Smarter

This engrossing podcast is presented by Patrick Aryee who is a Biologist and Wildlife TV Presenter. This podcast series has 30 episodes that are all about 15 minutes long, each episode tells you about a different animal that has influenced innovators and lead to the development of new technologies.

Whether you are an animal, science or technology lover you are in for a treat with this podcast series.

My Favourite Episode: ‘Sea Otter and Wetsuit’

This episode dives into how sea otters have influenced a design for a waterproof and warm wet suit. Some of the amazing facts I learnt from this episode were that sea otters have the finest fur in the animal kingdom, they have the same number of hairs per square cm as a blonde person has on their entire head! Also the incredibly dense fur traps pockets of air in between the hairs to keep the otter warm. The hairs have tiny barbs and these help to keep the fur matted together, this makes sure the fur closest to the body stays nice and dry. A team at MIT created innovative experiments and tests to see how these incredible properties can be applied to wet suit design. Find out more in the episode!

Listen now on Spotify or on the BBC here


The Infinite Monkey Cage

‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ is presented by Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince. This is an award winning BBC Radio 4 comedy and science podcast. It’s a celebration of science that is eye opening and inspirational. Every episode there is a guest panel normally consisting of two experts and a comedian who is a little less qualified!

I love the fast paced back and forth discussions that delve into real science and topical issues. There are a lot of series so there is more than enough episodes to get your teeth into!

My Favourite Episode: ‘Origin of Numbers’

I was laughing within the first few minutes of this episode with Robin Ince’s quick fire maths jokes. This episode was about all things numbers and had Prof Brian Butterworth (Cognitive Neurosychologist) , Dr Hannah Fry (Mathematician) & Matt Parker (Comedian Mathematician) on the guest panel. I learnt that some of the oldest words common to different languages are counting words (numbers 1 to 5). Also fish can count, yes you read that right! Fish are able to tell which shoal is larger so they can join a bigger group of fish, this helps them as it decreases the likelihood of the individual fish being eaten.

Listen now on Spotify or on the BBC here


Unprofessional Engineering

‘Unprofessional Engineering’ is hosted by James and Luke, this is a podcast that looks into the history of different feats of engineering. Each week they choose an everyday thing and break it down into engineering chunks that are easy to understand.

The 30 minute long episodes are easily digestible and they teach you about all kinds of different topics you may not have thought of!

My Favourite Episode: ‘History of Airplanes – Episode 53’

This great episode went through the timeline of important plane advancements throughout the years, being an aerospace engineer I absolutely loved this one! Some of my favourite historical moments included Edwin Link creating the flight simulator in 1928, this was used by US pilots in World War 2. The incredible Amelia Earhart completing the first solo flight over the Atlantic ocean by a woman in 1932. And the Concorde airliner flying in 1976 at supersonic speeds, travelling from London to New York in 3.5 hours – that’s twice the speed of sound!

Listen now on Spotify and on Soundcloud here

Maisie & Lily

2 Sisters In STEM

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10 Things You Should Know About…Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was an African-American STEM pioneer who played a key role in the success of the first manned moon landing.

“(The other women) didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.” – Katherine Johnson

  1. Katherine was born in 1918 in West Virginia, USA
  2. When she was only 18 years old Katherine graduated from university, she studied Mathematics and French
  3. She got a job at NASA in the 1950’s as a ‘computer’ – back when people not machines computed difficult mathematical calculations
  4. She worked on flight paths for space missions, successfully calculating the launch window for the 1961 manned mission to Mercury
  5. Katherine did most of the calculations for the path of the first manned mission to the Moon in 1969 – where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to walk on the Moon’s surface
  6. Over the years her calculations and work have helped many astronauts visit space and return safely 
  7. Katherine authored and co-authored 26 scientific papers and she also helped write the first textbook about space travel
  8. In 2015 Barack Obama presented her with the presidential medal of freedom – the USA’s highest civilian honour
  9. The 2016 film’Hidden Figures’ was based on Katherine’s story – she was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson
  10. Katherine died in February 2020 – at the age of 101

You can find out more about Katherine’s incredible life here and we definitely recommend the film ‘Hidden Figures’ which is available to rent or buy here.

Lily & Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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