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So as we come to the end of 2019 we close our year-long Women in Engineering focus, we catch up with Stevie McLaughlin, one of our young engineers doing great things here at Tharsus.

 

So, Stevie. An obvious question to start. Why did you get into engineering?

When I was a child, I spent most of my time wondering how pretty much everything around me worked. And constantly asking my poor parents to explain it to me! As I grew up I found I started to understand more. Understanding more about how things worked then started me thinking about how things are made. And then of course, how they can be unmade and made better. So, I guess I didn’t come to engineering as a career – rather it came to me. And I’m glad it did. I like to keep learning. And I like to ask questions. Particularly of myself, so I can challenge myself to find the answers. Being an engineer allows me to do this.

     "I constantly ask questions, constantly learn and I think that’s why I became an engineer - because it allows me to have that attitude."

Tell us about your engineering journey so far

I started out as an apprentice mechanical engineer with Siemens ESSF. I was working in what was originally famous steam turbine pioneer Charles Parson’s works on the banks of the Tyne and I was fascinated by the history of the place. Turbinia, the first steam turbine powered ship was built there for instance. Turbinia is world famous in naval circles. It was a record breaking game changer which had an immediate and lasting influence on marine power plants. It filled me with pride knowing I was walking in the footsteps of the engineers who designed and built it.

Siemens was where I first started practicing LEAN techniques too.

In early 2011, I joined GE Oil and Gas, where I spent my first year as a process inspector checking and verifying parts of huge subsea hoses used in the oil and gas industry. Then I became a project technician helping deliver a variety of different projects from beginning to end, which was interesting and rewarding. During my time there, I qualified as a Green belt engineer and worked on MRP system integration.

After six years at GE, I joined British Engines working in its BEL Valves division as a service technician looking after the valves and actuators it makes for the oil and gas industry all over the world. Which in turn saw me go all over the world too. The most exciting adventure I remember was repairing 10” valves in situ in Norway! Not many people can say they’ve done that!

How did you get into Continuous Improvement (CI) at Tharsus?

My childhood appetite for understanding how things can be better made never went away. In fact it grew and grew as my career continued. So a move to the CI world was inevitable. It started with a CI engineering role at BEL Valves. I’d also been busy studying for a degree and in September 2018 I graduated with a 2:1 in Leadership and Strategy. Shortly afterwards this job at Tharsus came up.

I’d been hearing more and more about Tharsus and was excited by what I was hearing. Particularly its innovative end to end new product development or OEDM process, in which market-disrupting new products are designed and developed under one roof. Part of my role is to lead and execute CI strategies via Lean and Six Sigma methods. This includes performing departmental analysis, planning and facilitating workshop events, and sustainment through audits, standard work and procedures. The other part driving transformational change through building, empowering teams to make it happen. I think change is very important. You have to keep getting better!

What has been your most challenging experience as an engineer?

Throughout my career, I have had to make difficult decisions. I’ve had to challenge myself to make sure that I don’t become complacent and stuck in a single mindset. I’ve definitely grown from this. Keeping myself challenged, has also kept me positive as I’ve felt the benefit of it.

I’ve worked away from home for months on end. Tough when you have a young family. I’ve done late nights and early mornings. Sometime I’ve missed out on special family moments. But every morning I get up and come to a job I absolutely love. At the end of the day I leave feeling satisfied and go home to my family. And that is the perfect work life balance in my book!