For International Women’s Day (8 March) each year we like to celebrate valued female members of the Tharsus team.
There’s a good reason for this. A lack of female interest in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines is a persistent problem and relatively few women pursue careers in these sectors. Recent figures shared by WISE indicate that for every 10 STEM apprentices, more than 9 are male, and that only 24% of STEM roles in the UK are held by women. In fact the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe – something that organisations like WISE and the government’s Industrial Strategy are working to tackle.
Because we would like to see more women in STEM sectors and believe this is important to workplace diversity, productivity and to filling the multiple roles currently being created in these thriving industries, we enjoy sharing the stories of our female colleagues. We hope that by doing this we may inspire others to consider this career path.
Last year we introduced you to our apprentice, now a qualified Technical Officer, Rebecca Henry. This year we’d like you to meet a member of our projects team, Christine Reid.
Christine has been with us at Tharsus for over two years now, starting as a project engineer and, following promotion, now holding the title of project principal. She takes care of the scope, budget, schedule and the risk in all of our projects, acting as the voice of the customer internally and the voice of Tharsus externally.
Do you remember how and when you decided to become an engineer?
It sounds terrible but not really! I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision for me to become an engineer, I just always really liked maths and physics but wanted to use them for something real and practical so engineering was a natural progression.
Tell us about your career to date
Doing applied maths at school was the big breakthrough for me as that took all the theory I’d been taught for years and used it to solve real world problems.
On leaving school, I went to Durham University where I studied general engineering – that was the reason I chose that particular course since I didn’t actually know which bit of engineering I wanted to study! Having a basic knowledge of all disciplines has been really helpful in my career and helped me choose mechanical to focus on (I originally planned to do civil so very glad I had the experience across the board).
I graduated with a BEng then took a role with the company where I’d completed my two week industrial placement during my final year of study, a Gateshead firm that designs and manufactures metal decorating equipment.
I was there for five years in numerous different roles, from manufacturing engineer to design engineer and then head of the R&D department. I enjoyed my time with them, but there was a bit of uncertainty about the future brewing and I needed a new challenge so I decided to apply to Tharsus.
I still remember my first visit to Tharsus during the interview process and being blown away by the factory – it was a million miles away from the environment in my previous role and I could instantly tell there was a really good culture in the business.
Project management has developed during my time here, we are now much more involved in helping our customers navigate the product development journey. In just two years I’ve been involved in a number of really exciting and cutting edge projects and there has certainly never been a dull moment.
What is the best thing about your job?
Being involved in every part of the business. We get to look after the customer and the product from it being a rough prototype or even just an idea through to full production. That means that every day is different but there’s always a new challenge to tackle.
And the most challenging?
Same answer as above!
It can be a bit of a balancing act! But it’s what makes my role what it is, so I would never change it even though it gets tricky sometimes.
How do people react when you tell them you work in engineering?
Generally people are a bit surprised but always interested. They want to know how I got into it and what my job involves.
I definitely still think there is a perception that it is a very male dominated industry and while that is true (I regularly have meetings where I’m the only woman out of 15 people) there is much more acceptance and openness now.
Favourite tech-related TV show and why?
Definitely Robot Wars! I have a little Sir Killalot that sits on my desk (taking a starring role above! – ed). I watched a lot of Scrapheap Challenge when I was younger as well. Everyone involved in both shows was always so enthusiastic and passionate about what they were doing and I think that got me more interested in engineering.
What advice do you have for women interested in engineering as a career?
There is absolutely nothing stopping you! And there is such a wide range of jobs in the engineering industry that there really is something to suit everyone.
However, I think the challenge is educating and enthusing girls and boys about engineering opportunities while they are still at school to try and break down the stereotypes around “male” and “female” jobs. Diversity in a workplace benefits everyone as the shared experiences and knowledge are wider and I think that has to be the ultimate goal.
If you’re considering a career in engineering Tharsus offers an excellent apprenticeship scheme and take on a new cohort of apprentices every year. For these and all other opportunities, visit our website.