Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day we caught up with Mary Bradley, Process Improvement Engineer at Saint-Gobain Formula, to find out more about her engineering journey.
Engineering is totally alien to most young people when choosing their career. I didn’t think I was capable of doing engineering because I didn’t know what it entailed.
Engineering wasn’t even something I had considered before a careers adviser suggested it but once you get a flavour for it more often than not you’ll find something you’re interested in. There are so many different disciplines to choose from; chemical, mechanical, structural, architectural, medical – the list goes on. Some career paths are much clearer than others like Medicine or Teaching. I think it’s up to us doing Engineering to try and raise awareness of the opportunities out there, through things like INWED, so that we can inspire the next generation.
I was never that car junkie, or that typical geeky person who loved taking something apart and putting it back together. For me, it was all about the problem solving in Maths but also particularly in Design and Technology. I loved the design side of things and coming up with a practical solution to challenges was something that really satisfied me. It’s something I still really enjoy and now I get to do it every day – and get paid – which I think is the ultimate in job satisfaction.
It’s rare to practice engineering at school so I had no work experience and no first-hand idea of what it would be like. I did some taster days at universities to see if it was for me. These introduce you to the kind of thing you would be learning in the engineering department. Often this demystifies all the different types of engineering, breaking down all the diverse applications of the different disciplines and outlining possible future careers.
I had a Gap Year to try and refine what I was interested in and got a placement with PPL Rencol, a Saint-Gobain business making tolerance rings, based in Bristol. My role was World Class Manufacturing (WCM) Student and the experience was great working in a manufacturing plant, getting advice from my colleagues and learning from them about their own career paths.
Every summer of university I did a placement with Saint-Gobain, first with PPL Rencol back in Bristol, then Celotex in Ispwich and finally even in Germany with PPL L+S GmbH.
I returned to Saint-Gobain as a Graduate with Saint-Gobain Formula in Newark and I’ve never looked back. I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve done in the Group, there’s really interesting projects, global opportunities and they look after you so well - it was a no-brainer to return.
My official job title is Process Improvement Engineer. I love it - it’s such good fun. I get involved in all parts of the business and my work impacts lots of different departments. You have to have the right mind set for continuous improvement and have an overview of tools and processes. There’s so much to get your teeth into from reactive troubleshooting at the plant to long-term continuous improvement projects. This variety means I can be working out glitches in the plant one minute and then researching ways I can minimise long-term energy consumption the next – directly impacting on the bottom line of the business.
My advice to any women considering Engineering is: go for it. Don’t hold back. I’ve never been treated differently because of my gender. If anything people respect that you’re pursuing a career where you’re in the minority. Engineering is challenging but rewarding with it. Every challenge you overcome, part you fix, every process you refine and improve is so satisfying – I’d recommend it to anyone.