My life as a female engineer - Neos Networks

My life as a female engineer

Field Engineer, Lindsey Aurora, Neos Networks

IT engineer with tablet in server room

Whenever people ask me what it is like to be a female engineer, the first thing I say is, ‘I don’t see myself as a female engineer, just an engineer!’. I think this attitude has got me to where I am in my career today, in the best job I have ever had: a field engineer at Neos Networks.

My career path to becoming an engineer hasn’t followed the most traditional route. I initially worked as a secretary for a few different companies and had no formal training in engineering. When I was working at Orange as a Legal Secretary, an opportunity arose to move to a role writing routes and circuits. It was this move to a more technical role that kickstarted my career in engineering.

I loved that job, and following a year out, I took a gamble and applied to a role as a transmission engineer – I didn’t even know what that position meant at the time! I got offered an interview, and despite being up against five men who were more experienced in the field, I was offered the role. That experience taught me that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting your hands up for every opportunity that comes your way.

As women, we can often be our own worst enemies and feel under-confident, especially in the workplace, where many women struggle with imposter syndrome. Therefore, my advice to young women aspiring to work in the engineering field would be to always put yourself forward for chances and have confidence in yourself.

There is no denying that the engineering field can be a bit of a ‘man’s world’. The best way to navigate it is to embrace the work and remain unfazed. There have been times when I have been the only female engineer in a team. However, you must throw yourself into the work and not let any assumptions get the better of you. I will always carry my own equipment, but I am happy to accept help and to give it if someone else is struggling.  I am the first to get involved with a good bit of banter and laughing, and joking around with my colleagues helps put everyone at ease. If I feel like there are any assumptions about my lack of competence because of my gender, it makes me even more determined to prove them wrong.

In the past, I have sometimes assumed that something I am struggling with at work is down to my gender. However, reaching out to a colleague has shown me that my male colleagues are also facing similar challenges. For example, there have been occasions where I have struggled with a task and immediately worried that it is because of my physical strength. A quick call to my manager revealed that this wasn’t the case at all!  My advice would be, don’t be afraid to ask for guidance or speak to your colleagues and managers. Everyone is always learning, and good managers will always be happy to help. My team at Neos Networks have been so important in supporting and encouraging me to pursue my goals.

There are so few female engineers in the industry (only 16.5% of UK engineers are women) so days like ‘Women in Engineering Day’ are an excellent opportunity to celebrate my female colleagues and champion this as a career path available to young women, as well as encouraging slightly older women to retrain as I did in my 30s and 40s.

When I was at school, boys were encouraged to be doctors and girls were told we could be hairdressers. Whilst I managed to steer my own path to a technical career in engineering, and times have definitely changed, it would have been easier if there was more representation and female mentors in the field who I could look up to. Hopefully I can be that representation for young women today!