Joanne Colderwood is a Product Design Engineer for diesel engines at Ford Motor Company.
19 February 2013
What attracted you to this job?
I was interested in design when I was at school and I had a technical interest and ability. Although I did get a place at a fashion design college at the time, I decided that the 4-year Ford apprenticeship was better suited to me. In a way, I wasn’t sure I was quite eccentric enough for how I thought of a career in fashion and the fact that, in an apprenticeship, you do get paid something definitely helps.
What does your typical day involve?
Tha majority of my work is CAD design – package work – which is what we call designing for components that have to fit against others in an engine. At present, I am designing fuel systems for new cars and, even with established models, we have to be aware of all the changing rules and regulations about emissions too, of course. You really need to be adaptable.
What about work/life balance?
I have been with Ford since 1990 and the apprenticeship was full time. Ford are really open to flexible working and I went part-time when I returned to work after my son was born which I have continued now that I have a daughter as well. I think Ford are great, and very enlightened, in that they don’t want to see the money they spent on training me to be wasted. It’s a good contrast to my family life and it definitely keeps my brain active! Since I have been part-time I have enjoyed the job even more because I am happy that my work/life balance is spot on.
What gives you the most job satisfaction?
I get a real sense of achievement out of all of it, but I guess you’d say producing designs and seeing them go forward for production and then displayed at a motor show gives me the opportunity to say “I did that! That’s my work!”
What do your friends and family think about your job?
My family are very proud of me. When people get to know me initially, they always seem surprised that I am an engineer. And blonde! It’s good to break stereotypes!
What subjects did you study at school?
At school, I did the basics – Maths and English – plus Physics, Design Technology, Design Communication, Art, Chemistry and Geography, all at GCSE-level. I then went on complete an ONC and HNC with Ford at Barking College as part of the four-year apprenticeship. This worked on a rotational basis; we had one week at college, then two weeks at Ford’s Technical Training Centre. I could have gone on to a degree course afterwards, also through Ford.
How did you get to where you are today?
Towards the end of your apprenticeship you get given different work placements across various areas of Ford, I went to the Design Centre at Dunton. There, you could go into Body, Chassis, Special Vehicle Operations, Electrical or Diesel, for a few months each and, from there, you would be offered a permanent placement in one of the areas you had been.
What advice would you give to Maya - she’s 14?
Engineering is not a man’s world – you can be part of it if you want to! There are so many choices out there – don’t go for the ones that you think appeal to women – think more openly.
What got you started in this area?
I enjoyed technical subjects at school and, even as a kid, I used to really enjoy designing cars so that particularly interest was what got me looking at car maufacturers and car designers to start with. Of course, once you get into it, you find that there are so many different areas within car design; who would have thought that I would end up designing diesel engines?
What do you have by way of hobbies and other interests?
Sailing, gardening, cooking, music and being a Mum.