Hazel Atkins

Senior Data Scientist, BMT

How I came to STEM

A love for mathematics is how my STEM involvement started.

I do wonder whether my aptitude for maths is nature or nurture. I struggled with subjects such as English and History because of my dyslexia but found that I had a flair for maths and science. Though there was teasing in the playground, I knew it was best to play to my strengths.

As a curious child, I would, like many, ask the big questions, “why is the sky blue?”, “what’s electricity?” and so on, and would be answered by my parents. Having an engineer as a father definitely helped; he would always listen to my questions with patience and answer in detail. I was also fortunate to have some wonderful secondary school maths and science teachers.

As mathematics may arguably be at the core of many STEM subjects, it opened the door to many STEM industries once I had graduated with my BSc in Mathematics. Engineering was always a fascination – using maths to make things work.  Though my friends struggle to understand my job at times (we have settled on ‘an engineering consultant who appreciates a good spreadsheet’), I am proud to explain it to anyone who asks, even when I get that look of slight surprise that I’m sure many women in STEM experience.

My interests in STEM over the years have developed. When I was younger I wanted to watch things explode in science lessons and watch television shows such as robot wars and brainiac. But now (although I still like a good explosion or colourful flame) statistics and data analysis have become more interesting – both in my job and when consuming information from the world around me.

Why I love what I do

As a consultant in an engineering company, my day to day activities can vary greatly depending on the projects I am working on. One day I may be project managing a team collecting and validating data; or creating a tool in Microsoft Excel to forecast future fuel usage across a fleet of ships.

The highlight of my career to date was supporting the BMT Giveback programme in rural Indonesia. BMT funded and designed a bridge to allow better access to a local town for a remote village. We supported the local community by going to schools to run simple health checks and teach them how to eat well. The interaction and excitement of the locals made it an incredibly special project.

The variety of work in STEM is so vast. I think this is why I was so overwhelmed after graduating. There are so many options; where should I start? I have found consultancy gives me the variation I need to keep moving, continually learning and find out what may pique my interest, and help me iterate on where to specialise in the future. Learning from the challenges that consultancy projects face, allows me to continually improve even when things aren’t plain sailing.

Outside of project roles, I am fortunate that I can also contribute to initiatives across the company. I am a STEM ambassador, social committee member and innovation catalyst, working across BMT to encourage and nurture new ideas for staff and business improvement. I enjoy these roles immensely and like to see people get the best from their jobs.

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

As I have progressed through life I have become more aware of the barriers that women face in education, careers, and life. I think that a TED talk by Michael Kimmel on why gender equality is good for everyone is where my determination to be a part of the equality movement began. I like to think that I have modified my behaviour accordingly, be it challenging comments of friends, influencing company initiatives and applying for this WISE YPB role.

There is always more to learn, more people to meet, and fantastic discoveries waiting around the corner. STEM industries are such fascinating places to work, with such a diverse and interesting array of professions. Women need to have more seats at the table, and I want to use my voice and passion to help make this happen.

I believe that encouraging gender equality, particularly within STEM, should start as early as possible in life. As a child, I remember being teased for enjoying the sciences, so want to make the sciences interesting, accessible and exciting for children. This will spark interest and improve involvement.  In my small part, I would like to be a role model to other women and girls.

After attending the WISE awards evening I was moved by the incredible work people are doing to level the playing field. Helen Wollaston quoted a woman in STEM; “Our generation is on the cusp of a significant shift in the way we work, and women in STEM are a big part of that”.

I want to be part of it.


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