Bethany Hall

ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS ENGINEER, ROLLS-ROYCE

How I came to STEM

When I was fifteen, whilst attending an all-girls school that specialised in Engineering (crazy, I know), I completed a Higher-Level Engineering Diploma. I chose to study the diploma for a few reasons: (1) I had always loved maths, (2) my dad was an Engineer, and (3) it involved attending the local technical college after school, which seemed like a fun excursion.

Soon after starting the diploma, I attended an IET lecture about the Bloodhound Supersonic Car. I remember Wing Commander Andy Green explaining the complex systems and novel technologies that were being integrated, and how great he felt being part of a team working towards such a ground-breaking goal. I remember distinctly deciding there and then that I would love to be part of a team developing something as pioneering as that.

My engineering skills developed further through joining the schools Greenpower Challenge team, where we built an all-electric racing car. I later studied Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Art at A-Level, and learnt to code in C++ through an Engineering Education Scheme project with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), where myself and four other students designed & built an automated tracking robot.

After A-Levels, I went on to study MEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London, specialising in control system theory. In 2015 I was awarded the IET Power Academy Scholarship, sponsored by Rolls-Royce, which ultimately led me to join their engineering graduate scheme in 2018.

Fast forward ten years from the Bloodhound SSC lecture to 2019 and I was working on the Rolls-Royce ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft which has now broken the world record for ‘fastest all-electric aircraft’. This was a complete ‘pinch-me’ moment, to realise I had manifested my dream into reality.

Why I love what I do

Being an engineer allows me to work alongside curious, creative, and ingenious people, solving complex problems that have a tangible impact on the world; what’s not to love about that?

Tackling climate change in a just and ethical way is the most important challenge we face in society today. Electrification has a significant role to play in decarbonisation, so it’s a very exciting time to be an electrical engineer! Since starting my professional career as an intern at Rolls-Royce in 2015, the electric aircraft industry has grown exponentially and I’m proud to be a part of that growth.

My favourite thing about working as an engineer is the act of problem solving. I’m a systems thinker; I like to connect the dots to help a team of people get from A to B in different and creative ways. I’m also an extrovert – so teamwork and bouncing ideas off others brings a lot of joy to my role as an engineer.

Engineering requires a whole suite of skills and specialisms, where everyone brings something unique to the puzzle. I spent many years questioning if I was a ‘real engineer’ because I felt that I looked and thought differently to other engineers. I’ve now learnt to appreciate what makes me unique and am confident that I’m a great engineer.

My advice to the younger generation is always to ‘be your full self, wherever you go and whatever you do’. The more I do that, the more I love what I do!

What I’m proud of, & what I’m hoping to achieve through the WYPB

The WISE 2021 Conference, with the theme ‘Inclusive. Transformative. Driving sustainability.’, sparked a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me.

Lack of diversity in STEM risks our ability to tackle climate change as swiftly and effectively as needed. Without representation from minority groups, we are not benefitting from their perspectives which can help lead to better problem solving.

There is a complementary opportunity that ‘Sustainable STEM’ careers can attract more diverse people into the industry – through the hopeful opportunity that by working in STEM, you can have positive impacts on society and the planet. I believe that this powerful message can help break up the stereotypes that currently discourage young girls and other minorities from pursuing STEM subjects.

I want to use the WISE Young Professionals’ Board platform to promote ‘Sustainable STEM’ careers to a larger audience. Doing so through blogs, social media, outreach resources and other events, I hope to also encourage unity amongst people working in STEM industries to tackle retention. 

Through action and conversations which centre intersectionality and authentic inclusion, I’m looking to raise awareness of the microaggressions and structural mechanisms that work against people in industry today, such as the gender pay gap, menopause awareness, unequal maternity/paternity provisions, etc. Through this, I hope to learn more myself to become a better ambassador for inclusion as I grow in my career. 

Change comes from people – and through the WISE Young Professionals’ Board I aim to encourage *everyone* who works in STEM to commit to taking direct individual action towards making it a more fair, equal, and enjoyable place for everyone to work.

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