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My engineering journey: An interview with a Siemens female engineer

Engineering is an industry that doesn’t get enough of the spotlight. This career path offers a diverse range of roles, competitive rewards, and global opportunities, so why aren’t we talking about it?

To discover more about what it means to be an engineer, Rullion spoke with Vicki Forman, a managing engineer with over 25 years’ experience.

Vicki Forman discussed her career path, her inspiration and why she feels more can be done to attract young people into engineering from an early age.

What’s your current role?

I am an Engineering Manager at Siemens Energy. I manage a small team of control engineers and have a team of four reporting into me. My team oversees the software for turbine control systems at Siemens in Lincoln.

What has been your career journey, so far?

My route into engineering was through an electrical and electronic engineering course at Leeds University. This was sponsored by Siemens, so I did a year in-house prior to starting my degree and worked on site during the holidays.

After obtaining my degree, I worked as an electrical applications engineer within a small team of six. We would oversee a project from customer placing an order through to installation on-site and I was responsible for the electrical aspect of the job. I began as an assistant engineer progressing to senior engineer and ultimately, principal engineer.

My role went beyond designs and writing specifications, I worked closely with customers, suppliers and grid companies, travelling the world to work on projects wherever I was needed.

I progressed into my current role around three years ago and this has a more managerial focus.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Engineering?

After studying Maths, Further Maths and Physics at A-level I wasn’t sure what to do and at my all-girls school, career advice was minimal at best. My headmistress advised me to become an optician, but I was certain that wasn’t for me!

Things clicked into place when I came across a poster that read, ‘Do you want to get paid to go to university? Have you thought about engineering?’ I researched the available sponsorship opportunities (more recently often referred to as scholarships) and after several applications and interviews was offered a position with Siemens, I never looked back.

I didn’t have any family in the field or any outside inspiration. I remember my dad nearly fell through the floor when I told him my plans!

Seeing that poster and acting on it, remains one of the best decisions I have ever made.

What do you love about your job?

I love the variety of my job; every day is different and you never know what to expect. A single phone call can change everything and although it’s busy and can be pressured, the sense of achievement makes it worthwhile.

Travelling to different places has been a wonderful part of my role. I enjoy customer interactions and building relationships with a variety of people from different cultural backgrounds has been a great experience.

How do you feel the engineering industry can attract more young people?

I don’t think we do enough with children in schools from a young age and by the time they reach their A-levels it’s often too late.

We need to make children aware of engineering and what that really means. When they are playing with Lego or Meccano, they are engaging with the building blocks of engineering, but they may not know it. We need to encourage this sort of play in both girls and boys.

We also need to tackle the misconception that an engineer is always someone who sits in overalls, covered in oil. Most professional engineers are office based or can be found travelling the world designing and implementing solutions to important problems.

What advice would you give to a young person considering an engineering career?

I’d definitely say they should spend some time considering which area of engineering appeals to them. I went into electrical engineering largely through chance and a lack of guidance. Engineering a huge industry and discovering your area of passion is key.

There are several routes into engineering at all levels from apprenticeships to graduate schemes. Chartered engineers now require a master’s degree; however, this is just one form of professional registration.

For A-Level students considering university, I’d advise them to examine the course content carefully. Many courses share a name but the content varies wildly. Make sure you know what you are signing up for.

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