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Women in engineering at DIO

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Why choose engineering as a career? Why choose an engineering career in DIO? My name is Helen Randell and I’ve been a civil engineer for nearly 10 years. I work in DIO’s Safety, Environment and Engineering (SEE) team as part of Engineering and Construction (E&C) as the Senior Civil and Structural Engineer under the Head Civil and Structural Engineer Tim Lord – it’s just us two in our team! Within E&C we also have Building Surveyors, Airfield Pavement Engineers, Mechanical and Fuel Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Weapons Effects Engineers, Waste and Water Engineers, Nuclear Equipment and Support Engineers, Railway Engineers and Fire Safety Managers.

I’ve been with DIO since April 2017 having spent most of my career before this in the construction industry as a site engineer and project manager. Having previously spent most of my career working on building sites, I have found it really exciting to get back into more technical work again and being able to really drill down into an issue or project. It is much more intellectually challenging and rewarding work, which I am really enjoying.

What’s a typical day like for me? The great thing about the role is that there isn’t really a typical day and this is what I love about my job! One day I could be advising on a demolition site the next day I could be doing anything ranging from visiting an old WWII hangar, ensuring an assault course is safe for training or assessing earthquake risks throughout the estate. It makes quite a change from working on a building site most days!

DIO Engineer Helen Randell
DIO Engineer Helen Randell [Crown Copyright / MOD 2017]
I also work alongside my colleague Tim who’s the Senior Authorising Authority (SAA) for work at height. I’ll hopefully progress formally to Deputy SAA once I’ve heard back about a course I’ve been on. In these roles we manage and audit working at height and issue the Safety Alerts and Technical Bulletins regarding working at height on the estate.

One of my other passions is to encourage more girls and young women to choose engineering as a career. I have been an active member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) since 2015 when I won the Karen Burt Award in 2015 for the best newly qualified female engineer. I’ve been to speak at various events throughout the country sharing my love of engineering with female pupils and encouraging them to harness their skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and to consider engineering as a career. Last week I hosted the WES ‘Market Place’ stand at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire as well as supporting with a range of workshop discussions on the day about careers in engineering. I have also recently spoken at Nottingham University and Derby University to prospective engineering students.

Helen Randell [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]
I have always enjoyed maths and I found I was better at maths than English which is what attracted me to engineering as a career. I am always keen to promote engineering as a career option to girls and young women as it is so varied and girls who have strengths in STEM subjects may not always consider engineering to be as exciting and diverse a career as it can be. When I go out and speak to students I always stress how much fun engineering is and I try to inspire younger children by taking part in activities like bridge building so that they can see what engineering means in practice. For older girls we try to encourage them to consider STEM subjects when doing their GCSEs and A-levels and to consider choosing a degree in engineering if they are thinking of going to university.

It is difficult to ‘sell’ engineering to students sometimes, as engineers often tend to be more inwardly focused on their technical area of expertise and less prone to shout about what they do. This can lead to misconceptions about what engineers actually do – we aren’t all mechanics, although some are! It is an incredibly varied and fascinating field and one that is so vital to so many areas of people’s day to day lives. I love my job and I am passionate about the work that I do for DIO and defence as a whole and I hope that I can inspire young people, especially young women, to join this exciting field!

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