Isobel Vernon-Avery

Consultant, ARUP

How I came to STEM

My STEM journey started as a child; I was fascinated by nature and how the world worked (I was always climbing trees or covered in mud!). This connection to the natural world was enhanced by my early Steiner education when we made a jam sandwich – from scratch. We ploughed a field, planted, grew and ground wheat to make bread. We picked berries for jam. After months of work, I remember the satisfaction of that sandwich.

From then on, I was always asking how and why natural processes worked.
I had several amazing geography teachers who supported me in following my interests throughout school. I was lucky to go and see tectonics in action in Iceland, learn about longshore drift at Hengistbury Head and have a mother who would always stop to look at rocks and explain how they formed.
During my A levels, I explored science and nature through art. I am interested in how we experience the world. I enjoyed creating pieces that looked at the scientific, emotional, and physical elements of nature.

I went on to study Geography at UCL. Living in London, I became interested in the built environment and how the places that we create impact people.
I now work at Arup, an engineering consultancy, within the fields of climate change and intelligent cities. I have had a unfolding path within STEM and I am enjoying continuing to learn about how our world works.

Why I love what I do

I love what I do because it gives me the opportunity to learn about different STEM topics, collaborate with others, and create meaningful, tangible change. I currently work within Advanced Digital Engineering at Arup. I am constantly being encouraged and supported to learn by colleagues and I have worked on projects I never imagined while at school.

As a digital strategy consultant, my day to day work varies. I normally work on about three different projects, ranging from intelligent cities, the circular economy, to decarbonising the built environment. Creating strategies that will impact people’s lives is rewarding, I feel a responsibility to ensure that we design and use technology to create sustainable places that support everyone.

I have fun learning new things.  At Arup, the culture of learning has enabled me to follow my interests and connect with people in multiple specialisms.  In a week I might have several workshops where industry leaders engage with a problem or innovation question, or I might speak to stakeholders to hear how people leverage technology in cities.

A highlight of 2020 for me was co-facilitating a live talk for Arup’s Connect Women network with Hearts in the Ice. We connected with two women scientists in the Arctic about climate change, their scientific research and what it means for them to be female leaders focusing on climate.

I love my work because I can combine personal passion with practical and tangible action. This is the massive opportunity that working within a STEM industry provides.

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

As I have studied and worked within STEM, the barriers that women face from a young age through to board level have increasingly become visible to me. In addition my research, including reading Invisible Women by Caroline Perez, makes it clear that we must rapidly increase gender equality within STEM industries to ensure that we inclusively create a future world for the benefit of all.

As a woman in STEM, I feel a responsibility to support girls and women to be empowered and to ensure my work advances gender equality and diversity within STEM industries.

I believe that the best of everyone is needed to resolve the complex challenges our world faces, and feel it is urgent that we increase workplace inclusion, diversity and equality. In my observation, the most creative and impactful work happens when diversity is respected and harnessed.

Through the WYPB I hope to encourage girls and women, from classroom to boardroom to industry leader, to support each other within STEM. I want to progress the WISE agenda so that all feel free to enter any career they choose and be empowered to own their place within STEM industries, at all levels. The WYPB is a powerful vehicle for positive change and I am proud to be part of it.

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