Women in Engineering: have the confidence to pursue what you love.
Julie Gilmour | Graduate Process Engineer
01 February 2019
Although gender stereotypes are being challenged more and more, ‘practical’ fields are still seen as ‘jobs for men’. Fortunately, women like Julie are smashing these misconceptions. Read how her engineering career is taking off at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group.
I joined Atkins with a Masters in Chemical Engineering. Since being here, I’ve worked for clients spanning the nuclear, defence and semi-conductor industries. At the moment I’m on secondment into the Strategy and Business Development team for Nuclear & Power. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me to learn and get involved with winning work in an extremely exciting sector!
What’s a chemical engineering grad to do?
When I started as a grad at the Atkins business, I soon realised that there were opportunities everywhere. It has been a great time for me to learn new skills and try out different areas of the industry. I have project managed some secondments at both a Nuclear Fuel Company and a multi-disciplined Engineering Solutions Provider. I’ve also worked on bids to win new business and jumped in on many other exciting internal and external initiatives. I am currently working in the strategy and business development team to learn more about how we operate as a consultancy and I provide support to directors of the business. This isn’t technical work however it will massively improve my understanding of how the company operates, which is sure to help when I return to the process engineering team.
Safety is ingrained in everything I do
As a Process Engineer at the Warrington office, I basically design and manage the safe and productive running of plants. It’s important that I’m strong and have the courage of my convictions, because much of what I do involves challenging clients to ensure designs are safe. Working in the supportive environment at the Atkins business, I’ve become comfortable speaking up and questioning procedures when I need to understand them in more detail.
As a Process Engineer, I’ve worked on multi-disciplinary projects with teams in different locations to deliver combined designs. So being a good communicator is vital. I recently worked with a British Semiconductor company, writing process specifications, performing line sizing calculations, designing safety relief valves and drawing Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams. Throughout the technical design, safety and collaboration were at the forefront of decisions and design considerations.
The exciting world of bidding
I’ve been involved in tenders since I first joined Atkins. I’ve relished these opportunities to do work that really impresses clients. They’re also chances to learn new skills and collaborate with disciplines you wouldn’t usually work alongside. In bids for a major Oil Company, Nuclear Power Business and Nuclear Regulator, I submitted boilerplate information and completed, checked and reviewed the bids before submitting them. For a recent Nuclear Fuel bid I travelled to the site to gather data for the scoping phase. I also worked for an Energy Company bid with our UAE business and colleagues in Canada. This involved slightly altering my work hours to say the least!
A business open to challenge and change
One of the things I love about working at Atkins is how open the culture is to improvement. No matter how junior a staff member is, their ideas and opinions are welcome and up for consideration. I recently realised the need for more structured guidance through graduate years at Atkins. So a colleague and I took it upon ourselves to produce something that could be issued to graduates as reference material for personal development. Looking through chartership guidance, pay and promotion guidance and grade guidance, we created a graduate support manual. This has been successfully rolled out here at the Warrington office and it is currently being rolled out across Nuclear & Power, with the potential of sharing with other sectors in the company.
During my career at Atkins, I have been involved in many aspects of business operations. Some of my daily tasks have required producing high quality reports, working on site and managing stakeholders. At the moment, one aspect of my role is using my skills to support our Strategy & Business Development Director prepare for our Monthly Management Reviews. This experience involves preparing pipeline, win rate and customer feedback analysis which is presented to the CEO of our Global Nuclear Business.
If you get speaking to someone in a different office, one thing quite often leads to another… I’m currently collaborating with our offices in the US and Canada to develop a capability map. This will demonstrate numbers of employees in different locations and can be used in bidding, for resourcing and ultimately strategic planning for recruitment.
There are so many interesting ways to get stuck into the running of the business, while gaining valuable experience. As Graduate & Apprentice (GAP) chair, I lead monthly forums inviting speakers to talk to the GAPS, support their development at the company and handle any issues that come up. I’ve also worked as My Career Champion, holding sessions to help everyone get up to speed on the Performance and Development Review (PDR) process. As the CRM Champion for the UK Sector I regularly analyse data, so that our marketing directors have access to up to date information every month. I am also involved in Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, delivering sessions to the teams in my office around inclusive cultures and encouraging effective teamwork.
#Givingback through STEM initiatives
I’m probably most passionate about raising awareness of STEM careers, especially to girls who may have never thought about a career in STEM before. I’ve represented the company at events, organised school visits and delivered presentations. This year I received very positive feedback from a school we’ve been working with at Knutsford, they said: ‘The uptake for girls in our triple science class has increased significantly this year.’ It excites me that I might have made a difference to young women who are now on their way to exciting engineering careers, like mine!
If you like the sound of Julie’s story, find out more about our Graduate opportunities here.