Who Inspired You to Become #1ofTheMillion?


How do you navigate your life and the world around you? 

A lot of us look to others, inspirational people, to help us answer this. Guides to help us navigate life. 

In the age of the internet, we could consider ourselves lucky because sharing stories, passions and advice is easier than ever. But does that leave us drowning in inspirational options, holding ourselves to impossible standards, or, does it give us hope? Either way, we always have someone (or many) we find inspirational, either well known or much closer to home. People can be inspirational due to their actions, achievements or advice. When we think of the people we find inspirational, and what attributes we admire about them, it often reflects in what others see in us. 

When considering what to write for this blog, I was curious to know who inspired others to become 
#1ofTheMillion and why. So I’ve asked some of the past and present WISE Young Professional Board (WYPB) members to share their inspirations as well. 

From parents and teachers, to celebrities, well-known figures and even fictional characters, here are some of our stories of inspiration: 

Abigail Seager 

Senior Systems Engineer at BBC and member of the WYPB since 2019 

Both my parents were always very supportive of all my interests, both within STEM and elsewhere. But it was my Dad who gave me the confidence to study physics and later to become an engineer. In the moments when I questioned whether I should choose something ‘cooler’, he always reminded to be true to myself, do the things that made me happy and worry less about what others thought about it. 

I remember a time at chess club when another child made a comment about my chess skill being related in some way to my gender….I remember Dad asking me in the car on the way home ‘Why do you care so much what he thinks anyway?’. He’s reminded me to ask myself that question a number of times over the years. I think being asked to reflect like that gave me more confidence, allowed me to be more comfortable in my own skin and far less concerned by what other people thought. 

I used to worry a fair bit about not being ‘cool’. Dad gave me the confidence to be ‘uncool’ and own it. Who decides what’s ‘cool’ anyway?! 

Lucy Collins 

Lucy Collins is a Naval Architect working for the Ministry of Defence, she was a member of the inaugural WYPB in 2014, Chair in 2015 and Member of the WISE Board 2015-2020. 

Lucille Ball, a comedy icon of the 1950s and star of the TV show I Love Lucy is an unlikely inspiration of mine, and this isn’t just because we share a name! I first saw I Love Lucy when I was twelve and became instantly captivated by her self-deprecating comedy, and the fact she clearly ‘ruled the roost’ in a time when a women’s place was most definitely considered to be in the home. But it was only a few years ago that I discovered how strong and pioneering she truly was. 

In the 1960s, Lucille became head of Desilu Productions (a major film studio at the time) and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Looking for a new hit show, she faced down unanimous resistance from her Board of Directors when she agreed to fund a new pilot from a little-known writer called Gene Roddenberry. When the pilot flopped she stuck to her convictions and funded a second, something almost unheard of due to the risk it posed to her business as well as her credibility as a producer. From this pilot came one of the most successful TV franchises and cultural icons in history, Star Trek. 

Not only should Lucille be an inspiration to all for her successes and in reaching the top of her field, but to me, she is a strong female role model who I can only admire for achieving these successes while working in an overwhelmingly male dominated profession. She no doubt faced similar discrimination and gender bias that I have seen in my own time as ‘one of the 10%’ (of Engineers), but her story reminds me that although I might be the minority in the room, it doesn’t make my voice and opinions any less valid. To top it off, Star Trek is not only a firm favourite of mine, but for decades it has captured the imaginations of new generations of science and tech enthusiasts and this, I’m sure, has inspired a few careers along the way too! 

Alexandra Lawson 

SEGAL Hydrocarbon Scheduler at Shell, member of the WYPB since 2019. 

My high school physics teacher, Mr. Osborne, was who inspired me to get into STEM. He always made the connection between what we learned in the classroom and how it applied in everyday life. I remember he once set us a challenge to find something that didn’t involve maths or science, and despite all of our best efforts we were stumped. He quickly opened my eyes to the fact that STEM has a part to play in all aspects of our daily lives, meaning scientists and engineers influence what we do everyday. I found this a really cool concept and it motivated me to look into the career opportunities available if I was to follow a career in STEM. 

Mr Osborne used to always tell a story of when he was at university, they used to read the grades out to everyone in the class and if you were in the bottom selection, you were made to stand and be made a real example of. This only ever happened to Mr Osborne once, as once was enough to allow himself to pull up his socks and never let it happen again. I’ve always kept that life lesson with me throughout my studies and work career. If you fall down and hit the bottom its fine, but learn from it, pick yourself up and don’t end up back there again. His approach to teaching and passion to the world of physics really shone through in all elements of his teaching and sparked the fire and passion I have for STEM today. I am now able to pass that on and share it with others. I continually strive to motivate and invite others to take a look at the world of STEM and the doors it could open for them, just like Mr. Osborne did for me. 

Hazel Atkins 

Business Analyst at BMT WISE YPB Chair since January 2020, and member since 2019. 

Jacinda Arden is a reasonably recent inspiration for me. It started with a short sabbatical to New Zealand three years ago, just after she was elected Prime Minister, and has blossomed into pure awe. 

Jacinda has led the nation through earthquake, a mass shooting and the current COVID-19 crisis; all with clarity, compassion and kindness. In a world of such turmoil, greed, and poor communication, she leads a whole country with a full heart and logical mind. 

I confess I have a small magazine cut out of her in my wardrobe! My career is not in politics, and I’m not sure my mental health would survive if it was, but seeing her in my wardrobe most days reminds me that there are brilliant leaders in the world, doing good things, that I can learn from. 

Who is your inspiration? And if they are here today and close to home, have you told them? 

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