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Women in Engineering have the Tools to Succeed

This week we spoke with Dr. Holly Everitt, Group Head of R&D of Inspiration Healthcare Group. We discuss her route to engineering and advice to women wanting to embark on a fabulous STEM career path that has so much to offer.  

The number of women professional engineers in the UK is around 11% and possibly the lowest rate in Europe. The number of women in technical-level roles, where job growth is greatest, is much lower. This makes it an ideal time for women to commence a career in engineering as many businesses are keen to develop a diverse workforce, especially in design-related fields.

Firstly, Holly, it would be great for you to introduce yourself. 
My name is Holly Everitt and I’m the Group Head of R&D of the Inspiration Healthcare Group. I used to be the Development Manager for SLE but now I manage R&D of the whole Inspiration Healthcare Group, including Software, Electronics, Mechanical, Project Managers, and Product Testers. The Group specialises in medical technology for critical care, operating theatre, and home healthcare applications, the devices for care of neonates, particularly premature babies, a lot of ventilation but patient warming, cooling, and accessories. 

Tell me about your hobbies and interests
The most interesting thing is having a new dog from Christmas which is very rewarding. My favourite activity used to be travelling but this is now on hold meaning a new hobby consists of dog walking. 

Being a woman in engineering, is there a role model that you look up to be it inside or outside the high-tech industry 
For a long time no, however, a couple of years ago I met a female MD of an electronics manufacturer, so rather than a role model she has been mentoring me since. When times were different, non-COVID-19 we used to meet up for dinner and talk about things, concepts, new ideas which was great.

Why did you choose to become an engineer?
Whilst I was at school, I originally thought I wanted to be in physiotherapy or something like that. When I undertook work experience in Year 10, I realised I was much more interested in the medical equipment and tools they were using. I then found out you could study medical engineering. I had always been good at Maths, Physics, and Engineering as the practical applications of those studies. After studying an MEng in Medical Engineering I went onto complete a PhD at Cardiff University which was sponsored by my employer.

So, work experience was the major factor in choosing an engineering career?

Do you think schools could do more to promote engineering?
Yes, I think so, it seems you would get told about it more at school if you asked. People think an engineer fixes a car or washing machine but not thinking that there are people who design the car, the washing machine. I think the bigger issues are that people do not know what engineering is. I always think it would be a great idea for schools to take students to trade shows, for example, there is a tradeshow called Medica (the biggest medical device tradeshow). If the students got to see all the products and see that they're designed and manufactured by someone that it would open up their eyes to what is out there. There are so many different opportunities for women in STEM careers.

I agree and it could open up some doors to a wider range of students i.e. more artistic than technical but people want products to be more aesthetically pleasing, would you say I’ve got that right?
I would say so you have the industrial design side, the user interface side so there is a lot more than just the purely technical or design engineering. 

So, you completed your work experience, what route did you then take to get to engineering?
Fortunately, because I knew then what I wanted to do, I was able to look at what A-Levels I needed to select; Maths, Physics, and Biology. I think what possibly sometimes happens is that if you don’t know what you want to do for your degree when picking your A-Levels then you’re not going to have Maths for example. This can make it more difficult to get into a STEM career such as engineering, medical engineering, and software development, etc. 

Being in a leadership role now, going from Manager to Group Head of R&D, how did you reach that level of success?
When I joined SLE, I helped to bring a project up to speed with various changes to improve the deliverable timescales this also assisted with how people work together and improved communication. A big thing that people saw in me, and another colleague, was getting the project delivered. We both continued to make changes within the R&D team to help achieve a more collaborative environment throughout the business.

So what does your average day look like?
Normally back to back meetings. Slightly away from hands-on engineering and more focused on budgets, product deliverables, roadmap, and day-to-day activities. The main project I am working on now is how to combine the R&D teams across the business and maximise the engineering resource and capabilities  Aligning the processes, the engineering tools used, and methods used, as well as combining teams, including bringing the engineering team leaders together in a cohesive organisation. A lot of people management and making sure that everyone in the engineering team understands the mission and has the tools they need to execute the projects on time to meet the companies objectives. 

Back to women in engineering, do you think there is a stereotype? 
I don’t think there is a stereotype of women engineers but I do think stereotypes exist that most engineers are men. Women engineers must help to change that perception.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into engineering?
It does depend on age but I think it is important to pick the right A-Levels. If you are planning to undertake a degree course in a STEM subject then doing a year in industry is exceptionally beneficial. Gaining some work experience makes a big difference in getting a job afterward but also allows an individual to target the particular discipline they may be interested in i.e. software development, product design, mechanical design, etc.

What benefits would you say would you get from engineering?
If you’re a person who likes to see things achieved, working on a project that has an output and something tangible like a product. In our case a product to save babies. Even consumer goods working on products people want or desire, looking back and being part of a team to say ‘I designed the screen for that’, it brings great satisfaction. Monetarily, it pays above the national average, so why wouldn’t you want a job in engineering? There is a global shortage of engineers, and as the world digitalizes, engineers become ever more important.

So why do you love engineering?
I think it’s because I am good at it and I like to be good at things. Doesn’t mean that every day is enjoyable. The satisfaction of achieving things, and problem-solving too, The main thing most engineers like to problem solve, and when things go wrong, finding out why and how to fix it, bring enormous satisfaction to our jobs. 

Redline Group is passionate when it comes to R&D and we're a keen advocate of Women Engineering Society

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