Case study

Aerospace engineer — Lucy Davies

Lucy studied aeronautical engineering at Loughborough University. She now works as an aerospace engineer at BAE Systems

Why did you decide on a career in engineering?

Growing up I always had a flare for maths and the sciences. It was this curiosity for the subject, paired with a school field trip to a power station that opened my eyes to the possibilities of STEM and how it underpins every aspect of our lives.

How did you get into your STEM role?

While at university I completed a summer internship at Caterpillar and a year internship at BAE Systems. I really enjoyed working on defence capabilities, so I joined the BAE Systems Accelerate graduate scheme after completing my degree.

What's a typical working day like?

Every day in engineering brings its own rewards and challenges. Within integration, my typical day consists of lots of meetings with different people and disciplines around the business; trying to understand where the issues lie, working towards finding solutions and bringing together the relevant stakeholders.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

The best thing about my job is the amount of interaction I have with other people. I love having the opportunity to speak to lots of people, learning new things and hearing different viewpoints. It's also fantastic for building up a network of people that you can turn to when you need support.

What are the challenges?

The challenges are also the amount of interaction with other people. Sometimes there can be lots of push back, which can be quite frustrating but taking a step back and understanding why there is push back, helps us to work around it and find collaborative solutions.

Engineering is typically male dominated. What more needs to be done to increase female representation in the sector?

There are two elements to this, recruitment and retention.

We need to inspire girls from a young age to consider STEM. This can be done by showing them it's an option through visible role models and empowering their decision making.

We also must ensure our workforce is inclusive to women's needs and understand that they actually are different to men's, in order to retain our talent pool.

How did you get involved in the WISE Young Professionals Board and what does this involve?

I got involved with WISE after seeing their My Skills My Life workshop at university and I became a role model on the platform. I then applied to the WISE Young Professionals' Board (YPB) after seeing the amazing work they were doing on social media and wanting to be a part of the change.

As the YPB we work on several projects (competition, conference, retention, partnerships and social media), we also support WISE with their initiatives and work within our own member companies towards the WISE vision of gender parity at all levels in STEM.

What three skills are needed for a career in aerospace engineering?

  • communication
  • problem solving
  • teamwork.

What are your career ambitions?

My career ambitions are to continually develop my skills and grow with and from each experience. I want to see lots of different elements of engineering and experience different parts of the engineering lifecycle as I believe this will make me a well rounded engineer.

Tell us about three issues affecting the STEM sectors today.

  • Sustainability - decarbonisation is a global shared goal and it relies on new and innovative engineering solutions.
  • Skills shortage - the UK has a known skills shortage in the STEM sector, this will be exacerbated by high rates of retirement among highly skilled and experienced engineers in the coming years.
  • Underrepresentation - although landscapes are changing, engineering is still underrepresented on gender and ethnicity. Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce will foster more innovative solutions to combat climate change and sustainability issues and will help close our skills gap.

What advice can you give to other aspiring female engineers?

  • Ask lots of questions, there's no such thing as a silly question and someone else in the room will be thinking the same thing.
  • Explore different avenues into STEM, there's university, different levels of apprenticeships and even return to work schemes for those who have had career breaks.
  • Champion each other, support the women around you and help each other reach your goals.
  • Build networks, having a strong network around you allows you to reach out to the right people when you need help and will present you with opportunities you didn’t know existed.

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