Simone Earle: A journey inspired by WISE
1 August 2014
Engineering runs through my blood, with the very definition supplied by Google totally summing me up! “The action of working artfully with science, mathematics and technology; to bring something about.”
Rather like the cliché, I too have always been interested in how things work, their intrinsic parts and solving problems! From a very young age I was very inquisitive and fascinated with the workings of the World, so much so that my mum got me started with the purchase of a magazine subscription called the “Tree of Knowledge.” As much as I loved all the segments the publication contained; it was the science and technology section that really appeased my logical, precise and analytical nature.
With this in mind my mum supported my application to Landau Forte College; (then a new City Technology College) which as well as the National Curriculum specialised in in providing technology based subjects, such as Engineering.
The WISE bus visited my secondary school for a week during year 8. I remember it was filled with computers, electronic components, bread boards, testing equipment and the latest software, not to mention fellow female role models! I remember having access to a 2D AutoCAD package for the first time and from a 12 year old girl’s perspective, it was brilliant and took what I had learnt in Design Technology to another level. I was instantly inspired and engaged and knew after that week that Engineering was a subject I wanted to pursue further.
I secured a place at Aston University and in the year 2000 went on to study a BEng in Mechanical Engineering. However, I found the transition from 6th form to University challenging to say the least and after a shift in confidence; I chose to leave after the first year.
I instantly regretted my decision, but never gave up on the idea of a career in Engineering, and at 24 I accepted a position temping as a receptionist at Norwest Holst Construction. I shared my aspiration of being an Engineer with my colleagues; and was offered the opportunity to join the team as a trainee Mechanical and Electrical Engineer – a position was literally created for me! I was so shocked and appreciative for the opportunity of a second chance. I was enrolled on a part time Mechanical Engineering Foundation Degree at Derby College and gained the practical experience of Project Management whilst working on refurbishing the M&E aspects of water and wastewater treatment works.
I cut my project management teeth at Stanton-By-Bridge Pump Station; where the objective was to install an onsite sodium hypochlorite generating plant and replace the treated water pumps.
Full works included:
- Installation of the 3no fixed speed pumps with 2no Weir pumps variable speed treated water pumps.
- Installation of new control panel
- Replacement of all electrical installations and equipment
- Removal of redundant chlorination equipment & installation of Clortec rig
- Installation of new gantry hoist
- Construction of new inspection chambers to accommodate new bypass pipework, valves, flowmeter & hypochlorite dosing lanes
- Removal of existing entrance steps and installation of a new fabricated steel loading platform
Other projects on the Severn Trent Water Amp 4 contract saw me complete the M&E design, tender, procurement, supervision of on-site installation, commissioning and training of old water and wastewater treatment works across Derbyshire. The role also included Authoring the Operation and Maintenance manuals required for each site after project handover.
I successfully finished my FdSc in Mechanical Engineering and my graduation has been one of the most heartening moments of my life…so far. I loved the pace of life on site and variety of the “day job” itself. Each site had unique mechanical, chemical and environmental requirements; and I worked at Pump Stations, Dissolved Air Filtration Treatment Works and Lime Plants to name a few. Running several projects simultaneously kept my brain stimulated, and I acquired so much more than practical Engineering experience. Even if the smell left something to be desired and as awful as that could be in the height of summer, the beautiful locations the Works were situated; more than made up for it!
The best thing about working for Norwest Holst (apart from my new found Engineering career) was the confidence I developed during my new role. I was launched out of my comfort zone, yet used my appreciation of a second chance to focus me. I uncovered I had the characteristics, ideas and strategies necessary to hold my own, yet felt fully embraced even though I was the only female M&E Engineer in an industry dominated by predominantly white males!
With the construction Industry affected by the 2008 “credit crunch” my time at Norwest Holst came to an end. Yet my journey was just about to start.
I decided to start my own business as a personal development facilitator – running workshops and sharing the tools and strategies I had discovered on my personal journey with others who feel they’d benefit from a confidence boost.
I applied for a few further engineering positions to no avail – but then an opportunity came up to teach Engineering at the same College I had studied at. Karen Gallagher, who had been my College business teacher, a fellow engineer and a role model to me; became my new boss. I jumped at the chance and have been teaching ever since.
I’ve recently completed my Certificate in Education and have a Graduation pending. Now a newly qualified Engineering Lecturer I love the development my career and business have taken me.
Being in a position to teach, encourage, mentor and develop the next generation of Engineers is inspirational and so rewarding There are far more aspiring female Engineers than in my own day, and it is a pleasure to be in a position to offer my knowledge and support!
Yet I still get keep in touch with Engineering Industry via continuous professional development, where I will soon be volunteering my skills for a local Project Management company. This will enable me to keep my own Engineering interest, knowledge and application up to date; whilst providing the opportunity to contextualise the subject in the classroom. By understanding the skill requirements of local industry and ensuring this can be incorporated into the curriculum – I can assist in supporting learners and the future employment requirements of Engineering Industry.
My Unique Teaching Proposition is to continue to recognise that the highly technical skills and competences required from learners and industry are equally as important the interpersonal skills that go towards positively shaping individuals included. Developing both these skill sets to a high standard, is a win win situation for all involved; including myself – as I get to exercise my two loves on a daily basis. The kind of engineering that is related to the design, manufacture and use of machines; as well as the kind of engineering concerned with the inner workings of the mind!
Thank you WISE for kick starting my engine!
Simone is an Engineering Lecturer at Derby College
To celebrate our 30th anniversary, WISE blogs in 2014 feature women who remember WISE in the early years. Please add your comments in response to the blog below and find out more about the history of WISE.