Laura Dawson has a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and at age 32 has already reached the position of Mechanical Engineer at global manufacturer, Agfa Graphics.
Why did you decide to become an engineer?
I decided to be an engineer in sixth form. I was quite good at maths and physics and I liked doing practical things, so engineering seemed like a way of bringing all this together.
How did you get into Agfa?
I went to University of Birmingham to study Mechanical Engineering for four years. This job at Agfa was my first job after university. Initially I joined Agfa as a trainee Mechanical Engineer – they actually made the post for me as they were originally advertising for an experienced engineer, but they wanted to bring someone younger into the business. After two years I became an Assistant Engineer then about two years ago I became a full Mechanical Engineer which feels like a real achievement.
What do you do in your job?
The job involves all kinds of activity. A lot of my friends who I studied engineering at university with sit in an office doing calculations most of the time, whereas here I have a very varied role. I can get stuck in and roll my sleeves up on the factory floor, as well as work in the office, which I like. My main job is supervising our fitters and all the contractors who come onto site, making sure that all the maintenance work is carried out.
What do you like about your job?
What I like about my job is how varied it is. Also, I like dealing with people and tackling problems. Solving problems is what engineering is all about really, isn’t it?
Is working in engineering what you expected?
The degree I did – mechanical engineering – is so broad that you could end up in all sorts of jobs. I originally thought I would be doing design, but I love what I do now which is much more varied. With hindsight I think a degree apprenticeship would have suited me better, where you study for your degree part-time alongside working. That way you find out what the real world of engineering is like, but when I went to school you were never told about apprenticeships. I think it’s better now.
Why aren’t there more girls going into engineering?
I don’t think engineering is promoted to girls as much as it should be, but the real problem is getting people into engineering at all. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about what engineers are. When I went to uni, people asked me, “Why are you going to uni to learn how to fix washing machines?” because that’s what they thought engineers did! Rather than thinking about engineers as professionals, which they are, solving problems and designing new products and services.
Why is engineering good for women?
There’s quite a big creative side to engineering. Girls think a bit differently, in my view, so it’s a good skill to have the creative side blended with understanding of maths and science.
Engineering is a good career whoever you are. Your gender, whether you are male or female, shouldn’t matter in my opinion.