uk resource centre for women in science, engineering and technology

Personal Stories

These profiles seek to provide a snapshot of the diverse areas and range of levels at which women currently operate across SET, and will hopefully serve to inspire and encourage women considering a SET career, and motivate those women seeking to maximise their potential and progress up the career ladder.
Postgraduate Tutor, Senior Lecturer To remember that empty vessels make most noise.
User Document Administrator. At the moment I work half-time, but this may increase in future after I have completed training as an Internal Auditor. Think before you speak.

Or – the written equivalent-
Check one last time before you press the send button.

Mirror – signal – manoeuvre.
Radiation Physicist and Data Analyst The most important thing that I have been told, and have found is true, is that you don't have to be a genius to be a scientist! The perception is that only those with the highest IQs will do well. It is true that the work can be challenging, and (as I am often asked) you do need reasonably good maths for physics. But science is also extremely rewarding and can be great fun! The most important thing about being a scientist is that you enjoy it. Although many science careers aren't the highest paid, I love my job, and for me that is much more important than anything else.
Teacher of Technology & Business / Work Related Learning Co-ordinator / Head of Careers That I would be a better teacher once I was a parent myself. How true! I approach my teaching, students and my life in a very different way, now that I have two children of my own (now 13 & 10!)
Senior Research Scientist It’s better to try something new, even if it doesn’t work out, than regret never having tried.
Senior Planner, Major Applications Always take the time to listen to other peoples' opinions and advice.
Scientist/Journalist Life is not a dress rehearsal.
Production Line Engineer Always learn from every experience, whether it's a good one or bad one.
Director Always ask, it's amazing how often people say yes.
Head of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology; Director of Centre for International Forensic Assistance; Founder of British Association for Human Identification; Council member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; Lead forensic anthropologist for UK DVI nationa My Grandmother always said "What is for you, will not go past you". At times when things have not worked out how I wanted, or when things didn't go as I planned - I find that submitting to her fatalistic approach somehow helps to put matters into perspective and take a bit of the sting out of the tail. So often though I look back with hindsight at those events and think "thank goodness I didn't get that after all as it would have been wrong" and under those circumstances I firmly believe that she was absolutely right.
Senior Lecturer/Director of Foundation Degrees How do you eat an elephant?
Professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Director of UCL Interaction Centre Variations on the theme of 'if you don't try you won't succeed' and that 'it's OK to fail sometimes'.
Quality Engineering Manager “It’s not when you get there, it’s when your team gets there”.
Senior Structural Engineer You are as good as the rest (and possibly better at some things) - from my Dad to a rather unconfident little girl.
Doctoral Research Engineer with True Snowboards. Technical Director and Team manager Again probably my School DT teacher who told me not to go into teaching as he knew I could go further. Also I found out I was very, very dyslexic when I started at Uni after struggling with English all my life but being seen to cope I was told by my educational psychologist - just because your dyslexic doesn't mean you're an idiot, he then went on to point out Einstine was dyslexic as well.
Reader/Senior Lecturer "Say no when you are asked to take on any administrative jobs" (but unfortunately I did not heed this advice).
Professor of Geoconservation Listen and think before you speak Understand how you learn
lecturer, researcher When you qualify as a new graduate physiotherapist, you are safe but not necessarily an expert, the day that you stop learning and trying to improve yourself is the day stop being good at what you do.
Research Associate Oh, so many bits of advice. The best motivators were: 'Girls can do anything' 'You'll never get a PhD. (I showed them!) 'Women never get a second chance. (I showed them too!) The best advice for my work currently: 'Just do it'. 'Sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees - step back and look at the big picture'.
Business Development Manager As part of my job, I have to undertake a lot of presentations to clients, (landowners, councils, housing associations) students and colleagues. Like a lot of people, I fear presentations, but the best advice I have received in regards to this was 'Do not think of presentation as a presentation, but think of it as a CONVERSATION, no matter who the audience is'.
Lecturer I dont think I can isolate a single piece of advice...
CE Marking, Health and Safety, Quality Assurance 'Write everything down' My Dad. Good advice for life in general, as well as engineering!
Research Scientist Do what you interested and as much as you can. Never give up easily.
Senior Mechanical Engineer Don't plan your holidays around your project work - it always changes!
Campus Services Manager Never to take myself too seriously and as long as I believe in myself there isn't anything I can't achieve.
Graduate Engineering Trainee "Don't let the b****** grind you down." Said by many including Bono of U2, however, in this instance credit goes to my late Uncle Alan.
Development Plans Manager If you don't enjoy your work - find something else that you do enjoy!
Co-found & MD of Memset Dedicated Hosting, Board member, Intellect (the UK's high tech trade association), Director, Surrey Chambers of Commerce "Learn to say no". There are often far too many opportunities to chase, so you have to learn to pick and choose. Also, I think that as women we sometimes try to be too helpful, but it is important to stay focused and sometimes say "No" to people and direct them elsewhere for help, rather than spread yourself too thinly and end up not helping anyone very much!
IT consultant and trainer Go for it!
Post-doctoral researcher in shock and impact physics "Your PhD is what you make of it". It applies to the rest of life as well, sometimes you can be unsure about making a particular decision, but the important thing to remember is that, whatever you choose, you can make it happen or not. If two choices have very similar merits, it almost doesn't matter which one you choose as long as you are committed to it and do everything that you can to make it work. An important part of that is that no-one else will hand you opportunities or do the work for you - you have to get out there and create opportunities for yourself.
Associate Director Good design is the best solution in the time available.
Production Operations Manager Treat everyone as an individual, giving them the respect that you would want yourself. A manager is only as good as the team s/he manages.
Electronic Engineer & Project Manager Be all that you can be!
Lecturer in Equine/Animal Science and Course Director for MSc Equine Science Always do your best within the constraints placed upon you by all other aspects of your life.
Partner in Business Consultancy Be yourself, be creative, try always to look at yourself with outside eyes. Think strategically, but always be prepared to role your sleeves up and get on with things.
T160 Women Return Student Keep going, and never give up! You are able to do and get whatever you want as long as you put your heart and mind into it.
Learning Technologist Spend as much time telling people about the work you've done as doing the work itself.
Professor of Statistical Epidemiology Always ask why.
Assistant Director of Research, DAMTP Dont let the B****** get you down....hang in there!!
Senior Lecturer I once read in an essay about the possible reasons of there being so few women physicists that women tend to be more easily discouraged my set-backs and failures than men. When things haven't been going so well I have sometimes reminded myself of that and simply refused to comply with the stereotype, and not given up but gone on to the next challenge instead.
Currently independent coach, mentor and consultant on part-time basis, also studying biological psychology. 1) In an interview, count to 10 before answering any questions (this has always worked!) 2) Sometimes it is better to step back and allow matters to evolve before taking actions or deciding what road to take.
Hydraulic Engineer and Modeller If you don't ask, you don't get.
My current role is Director of Industry and Innovation at The National Physical Laboratory. Two main pieces of advice: only ever work for a boss that you feel comfortable with; and secondly don’t fall into the trap of only recruiting like yourself: the best work comes form having a diverse range of people.
Professor of Drug Delivery The late cancer expert and former Chair of the Cancer Research Campaign (now Cancer Research UK) - Tom Connors, said, "take the Scottish job". I now love Scotland and I am really glad that I did.

Read more about Ijeoma in our Women of Oustanding Achievement section.
Plant Molecular Biologist  
Network/Website Administrator Advice and suggestion are two things to give, which help others to make the right decision. Decision, itself is not something to give.
Lecturer in Physics Publish or perish!!
T160 Course Returner  
Currently process chemist with leadership of quality control (one lab manager reporting to me who has two technicians reporting to him) If you don’t ask you don’t get.
This piece of advice is especially true in small businesses. But it goes further than asking for something, it holds true for anything: talk about your ideas. If they land flat, talk to someone else about your idea until it makes its way to the right person and lands back on your lap to push to fruition. Of course, in this process, some unscrupulous people will take it and run, but the risk has to be taken. An idea that dies into oblivion is worse than a stolen idea.
Geotechnical Engineer Confucian saying - I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.
Electronic Engineer Have confidence in my own ability.
ICT Coordinator Primary School  
Wind turbine control engineer It's not worth doing a job unless you do it properly, so always push to do better.
Advanced Fellow and Lecturer  
Reader When it comes to applying for research grants never give up, keep applying but be flexible and adapt you interest to the finding opportunities available.
Specialist, Radioactive Substances Regulation Believe in yourself and what you can do, from my parents.
Education manager Keep smiling - no-one knows it has gone wrong except you.
Retired Respect all others even when you don't understand them or agree with them.
Manufacturing / Production / Process / Lean Manufacturing /Development Engineer If you know you can do it and have the confidence in yourself, then people will always accept you for what you can do rather than what sex you are. Which I found to be true in any aspect of life.
Senior Structural Engineer The best things come to those who wait - BUT you have to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.
Director of Planning and Performance In terms of careers advice - not to give up work entirely when having a family but to keep some kind of continuity of career, even if very much part-time or even voluntary.
Civil Engineer Do not do anything out of selfish ambition or to make yourself look good, but humbly consider other people as more important than yourself. (This is an ideal I aim for, but I'm not there yet.)
Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher Its not WHAT you know, its WHO you know. (I didnt understand this when someone said it to me in my early twenties. Now in my forties I finally see what it means.
Reader in Mechanical Engineering Do your best.
Curator of Petrology, Acting Head of Mineralogy & Petrology, Collection Manager (Petrology & Mineralogy) Focus on what you are doing and don't get distracted by what others are doing or by what you cannot influence.
Water / Public Health / Civil Engineer / Development Consultant The world is complex and sometimes it can be difficult to clearly see if the impact of your work is positive or negative or indifferent.

The advice I received in relation to this was that life and work is like walking on a tight rope, or along a fence. When the impact of your work is more on the positive side, or you are on the tightrope or fence itself i.e. the impact is neither positive nor negative, then stay walking along the fence and continue. When the tendency becomes that more often the impact (either on the people you are working to support or on yourself) is falling on the negative side, then it is time to consider getting off and moving on.
Environmental Consultant / BREEAM Assessor / Director Two things - firstly, probably predictably, to Go For It! with regard to starting Corporation Green. Admittedly, I did have doubts in the early stages but you have to remain positive. And at the end of the day, if it all goes wrong you've just got to pick yourself up, figure out what went wrong and start again. The other thing is to not procrastinate (don't put things off). People would rather do the interesting, quick things first and the dull things get left till last, but sometimes they get put off to the next day and then the next. Everyone has jobs they don't like to do, phone calls they don't like to make, but they won't get done unless you do them!
Process Control Technician My mum and dad both encouraged me to do something I enjoy for a job, not necessarily the best paid, just something I wouldnt mind getting up for on a Monday morning. I still look forward to coming to work and couldnt imagine doing anything else, I have been at Shotton Paper 12 years and as I develop my work develops with me. It helps that with engineering, its quite well paid too! In the picture: Sam and Belle Vue students at the instruments.
Network Operations Liaison Engineer  
Founder/Managing Director of Skincare Company Don't ever under sell yourself.
Freelance writer / Research and Web designer / Photographer / Chartered Geologist Go back to university (tendered by several people while I had a year out).
Project Manager in Waste Management Advice given by one of my university lecturers "You can only move shit one shovel at a time!" It may need re-phrasing, but it is wonderful advice for combatting stress, it makes me laugh every time I think of it!
Head of Technology People aren’t meant to be perfect. We just aren’t. So there’s no point trying to be a perfectionist about it. Just try and do your best. Whatever your best happens to be for that day. But do try. A friend of mine best summed this up in this following concise statement, “Just get on with it girl!”
Strategic Growth Business Unit Executive for IBM Have a good pair of shoes and a good bed - you are in one or the other.
Chief Technologist “Set your own standards” – don’t be content with just having achieved whatever goals someone else might think is good enough for you.
Technical Engineer  
Tutor / Programmer/ Teaching Assistant Actually one advice but has two aspects: No one knows what one can do until one tries. First Deserve then Desire. I can now sense the depth of the two advices I was given, I feel these led me to what I am today and will lead me to what I will be in future.
Head of School The easiest way to eat an elephant is in small bites, and the darkest hour is before the dawn
Science Communication  
Professor in Physical Geography Academic life is swings and roundabouts.
Associate Director; Technical Leader 'Ignore the begrudgers' (politer version of original Irish version!!)
CEO No such thing as failure – only results
Professor of Plant Developmental Genetics I have spent much of my career ignoring advice. Academic science is a competitive career and people are always offering gloomy advice about how it is impossible to succeed unless you do things like ensure you work with only the most famous people in you early career, put off having children until you have a permanent job etc. I have always just gone after the science and life choices that I felt were right for me.
Science Communicator To network well, and to keep going after what I wanted. Also to be prepared to do lots of unpaid work before I got a real job! Science Communicators are extremely friendly, and are usually delighted to help you try to get a foothold in the business, so making sure I was on all the relevant mailing lists and attending events really helped. I've been incredibly lucky though - I really have got my dream job!
Co-founder and managing director Realise that you don't know everything, and that you'll be learning for the rest of your life. When we started out I worried that I didn't really know enough to run a 3D graphics business. But the main qualification for running a business is accepting that you don't know it all, and being prepared to work hard and learn. The exciting thing about my job as company director is that I am constantly learning new things, across all areas of the business - marketing, accounts, people management, client relations, the production of computer graphics. The first three years of running the business has been a crash course in everything, and I know I've still got plenty to learn!
Director of the Undergraduate degree course in Exploration Geology, Senior Lecturer, Joint holder of the Royal Society Senior Brian Mercer Award for innovation for 2004. I seek out as much advice as I can and listen to all the advice carefully, from what ever source, and then act on some of it.
Part Time Physics lecturer, University of Reading with particular responsibility for outreach & Part time (self employed) educational consultant with emphasis on projects communicating science to the public Go for it.
Co-Director of the Centre for Environmental Magnetism and Palaeomagnetism "What's needed in this job is honesty, awareness and a full sense of moral values".
Lecturer The best quote about success, by Winston Churchill: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
The best career advice, from a wonderful (and female) Professor of Planetary science, was to follow my real research interests and not try to plan my career.
My late father, who was a musician in a rock band, always told me that I could accomplish whatever I wanted to. It was a powerful message.
About raising a baby: “remember, you’re bigger than he is” (this advice from my mum was especially useful with my little boy).
My husband’s best advice was not to worry about gender issues too much, and focus on my work instead.
Research Scientist Go as far as you can get in education.
Engineering Doctorate Research Engineer Believe in yourself.
Director, Regional Coordinator Treat everyone as equal.
Research fellow Good advice about my PhD from one of my supervisors, Debbie Epstein: don't get it right, get it written.
Perform research (clinical and basic science orientated) into the mechanisms behind the development of vascular disease including diabetes and atherosclerosis. Too many good pieces of advice to list! Favourites include: "Never compare yourself to others because there will always be better and worse persons than yourself and you risk becoming vain and bitter", "Your talents can be measured by how many stab marks you have in your back".
Civil Engineer If at first you don't succeed - try harder!
Managing partner IJ Knowledge, part-time Executive Director & Company Secretary of new-start bioscience business & a variety of non-Executive Director positions within technology businesses. "Know what you know and know what you don't know". "Never hold back from asking for help - it is not a sign of weakness".
Chief Executive Officer, WareLite Limited; Managing Director (ad-interim), WareLite Italia Just pretend to be confident, even when you are feeling like a mass of jelly inside: actual self-confidence will follow.
Lecturer in Marine Geoscience Learn to say "No!".
Senior Researcher You'll only regret what you haven't done.
Altitude Physiologist and Business Process Manager The best advice I have received is to apply yourself fully to your work and to be motivated by what really grabs your interest and gets you going. If your work doesn't inspire you, its time for a change.
Chairman of the board 'Get in your Helicopter' i.e. view the business objectively from the outside looking in. And 'Remember it's a job, 'it's not life'.
Run small business, lead an environmental natural history group - Hartlebury Common Local Group and radio presenter on Choice Radio at Worcester Royal Hospital. If it gets too much be prepared to walk away from it.
Director Do something you really believe in, and try and make a difference in your own small way. And always get things in writing!
University Biochemistry lecturer & neurobiology research group leader If you have a vision or an idea, run with it, develop it, see how it takes shape. Don’t wait for permission. This can be sought further down the line if your idea works, when you will then have evidence to support its official implementation, and if it doesn’t, you will have grown in wisdom without egg on your face!
Research Associate To be reflective about your work, this is especially important for teaching!
T160 Course Returner + Science technician (temp)  
Royal Society University Research Fellow in particle physics If you don't understand something, it's probably because the person explaining it to you doesn't understand it either. It's simple, but often true.
Electrical Engineering Associate Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Research Associate Make time for your friends and family! It’s not something I’m very good at – I tend to let work take over, but luckily my friends and family are very forgiving and so far, they’ve always welcomed me back…
Daphne Jackson Fellow One door closes as another door opens.
Research Astronomer I was advised to select an MSci course with more emphasis on astronomy than the pure physics degree I originally took, since I was certain which field I wanted to research. I was also advised to move between institutions between courses and jobs.
Clinical Research Fellow and Honorary Specialist Registrar Choose where you work by speaking to the people who work there - if you like them and admire the way they conduct themselves, you will enjoy working with them.
Environmental Engineer/ Mechanical Engineer/ Microclimate designer/ Fluid dynamicist Not to underestimate myself.
Manager, Proposals, Global Capital Projects 'If your ship doesn't come in then go and swim out to it' - take control of your future and go make it happen for you, no-one else will do it for you.
Associate Director / Structural Engineer 'If there is something you fancy doing, just ask. The worst anyone will say is no'. Given to me by the late Tony Fitzpatrick, my then group leader, shortly after I started work. That and 'If a job's worth doing, its worth doing well' - from Dad, Mum, Grandma, Grandad
Consultant and Director Advice from old contacts - Start your own business!
T160 Course Returner  
M.Sc. Eng., speciality Systems and Control, graduated in Technical University, Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1992. To trust in my ability , my research and never stop working.
MRC Clinician Scientist & Hon Consultant Senior Lecturer Never give up on a good idea.
Senior Lecturer in Science Education Stick your head above the parapet and go for it!
Freelance Engineering Consultant Never stop learning and to learn you must ask. You can't ask too many questions.
SEAs and Project Development Manager When faced with a tough career decision, my Mum told me that whatever decision you make, it will always be the right one because that's the path you take, the path you make the most of, and you never know what would have become of the other choice.
ICT Director Everything in moderation.

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