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.
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.
I have been involved with many different projects at Renishaw:
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 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
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 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.