Dr Anna Ferguson has successfully returned to a career in engineering as an electrical engineer with NaREC (National Renewable Energy Centre) after being awarded a technical training grant from the UKRC. A £500 award to part fund her MSc in Electrical Power Systems at Bath University. The course is going really well and it definitely helped me to gain my current role."
Anna is now employed in the Electrical Networks team of NaREC, which provides independent analysis, certification and networks planning advice to the power industry.
"The job is ideal; I can use both my technical skills and people skills. It's a really interesting place to work, with an impressive test laboratory but also consultancy services such as project management and power system analysis. We are also tackling renewables issues, such as grid connection of offshore wind turbines."
Anna has an MEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from Cambridge University and a PhD from Leeds University in Microwave Photonics. However, she then spent a few years working in London initially as a technologist for the Investment Bank, Goldman Sachs, and subsequently as a Management Consultant for a small strategic consultancy.
I hadn't really thought about going back to engineering until I saw the UKRC giving a presentation at an event organised by Nepic (North East Process Industry Cluster). The UKRC talked about support services for women wanting to return to a SET career.
"It's good to know there is an organisation doing this sort of thing and it got me thinking that perhaps I could go back to a career in engineering."
Once I'd made the decision to return to engineering I knew I wanted to concentrate on Power Engineering. This was quite a big change from my electronics/optics background. There are good opportunities in the energy sector in the North East and since working at Hartlepool Power Station in my "Year in Industry" (prior to University) I have been fascinated by industry. Besides, my father and grandfather were both electrical power engineers, so perhaps it runs in the family! I decided to retrain, brush up my engineering skills, gain some experience and ultimately find a permanent engineering position."
Anna therefore applied for a UKRC Technical Training Grant to fund the first module of a Distance Learning MSc in Electrical Power Systems at Bath University. "Although I didn't have a background in power engineering, I had to show I had relevant skills, enthusiam and motivation. The fact that I was studying for the MSc over three years showed that I was serious about moving into power engineering. Everything I've learned on the course so far I've been using in my work, so it's been vital. NaREC fully support me in doing it, including giving me some time off to take exams".
Anna's return demonstrates how important it is to be proactive. Rather than waiting for jobs to be advertised; she sent out speculative CVs to the companies she was interested in working for. Anna gives some advice on retraining and career change:
- Times change and there are different industry demands; be open to retraining where there are opportunties.
- Show commitment; companies may take someone on if they can demonstrate potential.
- Don't just ask for a job, ask about work experience, find what specific projects the company is working on and suggest ways you could get involved.
- Don't wait for your perfect job to be advertised , you need to go out and find. Talk to people from within the industry you are looking to enter for advice and seek different opinions.
"I am just embarking on my career with NaREC but already I am involved in exciting projects and learning new and interesting technical skills. Over the coming months and years I am looking forward to continuing to learn and applying the knowledge to my role."
Anna recently got in touch with the UKRC and gave us an update on her career progression:
"I became a Chartered Engineer in June 2010 and was promoted to Senior Engineer at a similar time. In March 2011 I moved to Atkins (again as a Senior Electrical Engineer) and I have recently been promoted at Atkins to the top level of Senior. I’ve worked on some great projects since I started here, including leading the “Higher voltage inter-array design study” for the Carbon Trust. This has been a major piece of research work over the last year for Atkins."