Elena Rodriguez-Falcon - Raising the profile of women in engineering at The University of Sheffield
19 March 2012
Ms Elena Rodriguez-Falcon – Senior University Teacher, Director of Enterprise Education and Faculty Director of Women in Engineering at the University of Sheffield.
My engineering career began during my mechanical engineering degree in Mexico, where I started working at a food company as a logistics engineer. Studying and working at the same time is not uncommon in Mexico so by the time I graduated in 1994 I had worked for two companies. The last job I had before coming to the UK was as a Quality Manager at a Manufacturing company, where I was the only female engineer with over 200 workers to supervise. An exciting job indeed!
Later I came to the UK to study an MBA in Industrial Management and in 2002 I was very fortunate to find a job that lead me to my current job as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield. For the past ten years I have taught design, enterprise and business planning modules. I have also developed new degrees in mechanical engineering with business and enterprise. As an engineer with a keen interest in all manners of enterprise education combined with engineering, I was also keen to set up what I called an enterprise lab which was launched in 2004 by the Rt Hon David Blunkett and which became the model for our current University of Sheffield Enterprise Zone. I am currently Director of Enterprise Education of the University of Sheffield.
On my day-to-day job I work with vulnerable people from the community who kindly agree to take part in my teaching. My students are challenged to use their engineering skills to ‘make these people’s lives easier’ and think of commercial opportunities for their solutions. Students’ solutions vary from writing aids for people with dexterity problems to walking frames for children with brittle bones. My approach to teaching business planning, whilst enabling engineering students to make a difference, has been recognised by the Higher Education Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Enterprise Educators and National Council of Graduate Entrepreneurship.
As a female engineer the issue of representation of women in my discipline has always been at the forefront of my mind. But if a few months ago you would have told me that by the second month of 2012 I would have talked to hundreds of female engineers and engineering students, that I was going to meet Dame Professor Athene Donald, have a conversation with the Rt Hon Meg Munn MP and that I would be the leader of a major effort to raise the profile of women in engineering at The University of Sheffield I would not have believed it.
I am fortunate to have been asked to lead this endeavour as Director of Women in Engineering but I also feel a great
responsibility to ensuring that in this process we recognise the challenges, identify the areas of opportunity and celebrate the achievements of women in the profession.
Women make amazing engineers and the world needs many more amazing engineers.