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Why I love being an engineer

Lucy Ackland, one of The Daily Telegraph's top 50 UK female engineers, explains how she got into engineering and why she loves her job so much. 

Lucy Ackland
Lucy Ackland

I was 13 years old when I was introduced to the world of engineering. At school my favourite subjects were maths, science and art, and my teacher recommended me to go on an engineering experience weekend to see how I could use these in real life.

At the event, we had an opportunity to build and program a bomb disposal robot for a competition at the end of the weekend. We worked in teams to design, build prototypes and test equipment for different industries, from automotive to aerospace, medical and materials. 

It was amazing, never did I know that engineering was about team work, being creative and solving problems. It also taught me that engineering really helps people.

From that point on I knew this was the job for me. I started my career in engineering with Renishaw aged 16 as an apprentice and have never looked back.

In my apprenticeship I got hands on straight away with many different areas of engineering – from making parts to testing them and designing them. I was paid a salary and also went to college part time, which was paid for by the company.

Lucy Ackland
Lucy Ackland

I have been involved with many different projects at Renishaw:

  • I have designed and developed systems that measure parts that go into cars, aircraft and even into space.
  • I have manufactured parts that make highly precise measurement equipment.
  • I have helped to develop a brand-new metal 3D printer that prints parts in different metals. These types of machines have printed the world’s first metal 3D-printed bike frame, the nose cone and steering wheel of the Bloodhound supersonic car and even medical and dental parts for human bodies.

Most engineers spend a lot of time at a computer because designing, coding and project work is done using computer software. But we often go out and get involved in test labs and in manufacturing too. I also do lots of travel with my job, working across the UK, the USA, in Slovenia and in Germany.

Designing parts on the computer software
Designing and visualising objects using computer software

Many people don’t realise how much art and design is involved in engineering – you need to be able to visualise objects, often in 3D, and be creative to make things look great as well as function properly.

We work in teams to design hundreds of parts, using a computer-based design system in 3D, and then we develop them until they are robust, do exactly what we want them to do and will last a long time. This design process is often repeated many times until we come up with a product that we are happy with.

Engineering pushes me to better myself; technically, practically, professionally and personally Lucy Ackland

Lucy Ackland

Many of the technologies that I’ve worked on didn’t even exist when I was at school and that is what’s really exciting about engineering – it’s constantly changing and moving forward.

It’s a hugely exciting area to work in and I think it’s very important to encourage young people into the field because engineering affects our daily life in almost every way. I particularly want to encourage more young women into engineering as it is a fantastic career choice.

Lucy Ackland
Lucy at the Big Bang Fair in 2013

Engineering is still a male dominated industry, which can sometimes be difficult. I have previously been nervous to stand up in a room full of males and share my technical opinions but my confidence has grown. Engineering pushes me to better myself; technically, practically, professionally and personally.

I was one of very few female engineers when I started but now that is changing, there are a growing number of women and I have recently been a part of some female-dominated teams! I look forward to an exciting, more diverse and more balanced engineering future.

Lift-the-flap engineering

Lift-the-flap engineering

Engineering helps shape the world around us, from the houses and cities we live in, to the way we travel, and even the sound of the music we listen to. Lift the flaps in this fascinating book to discover how engineering works and the many things engineers do. Includes internet links to find out more. Published for the 2018 Year of Engineering.

£12.99

Buy or find out more 

  • Find out more about the 2018 Year of Engineering and why it is so important to inspire the next generation of engineers on the Usborne blog.

Lucy Ackland

Tags: science stem year of engineering


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