Case study

Associate engineer — Gioia Etchi

Gioia studied Materials Science and Engineering at Queen Mary University of London. Find out how she got her job as a materials engineer at a small tech company in Cambridge

How did you get your job?

Through indeed.co.uk. I applied for dozens of jobs across both STEM and generic job boards over the course of five months, got a couple of interviews and received one offer.

I applied for this job by simply submitting my CV (no cover letter was required), passing the phone and in-person interview and receiving an offer.

While the job hunt wasn't easy it was necessary to understand and learn how to sell myself and what type of job I wanted.

Engineering is a typically male-dominated industry. Why did you decide on this career?

Since school I've always preferred STEM subjects and how structured they are compared to humanities subjects, which have more grey areas.

Engineering seemed to include all the sciences and I knew I wouldn't have to give up on any of them.

What's a typical day like as a materials engineer?

As I work in the R&D (Research and Development) team I'm often testing materials, analysing the data and presenting results to help understand the materials' properties, structure and behaviour. I operate different types of equipment, use a variety of software and sometimes manufacture devices.

What more should be done to increase female representation in engineering?

I believe that this career should be made more appealing though perhaps a cool Netflix TV series starring a female engineer and a diverse cast. Just like Shuri, the engineer in the Marvel movie 'Black Panther' who developed the Wakanda technology, which involves lots of smart materials and IoT (Internet of Things) technology.

What part of your job do you enjoy?

Learning what different materials are capable of doing, making them do what you need them to do and then using them to solve problems.

What are the challenges?

In research things don't always go as planned, so you need go back, understand what went wrong and try again. You'll learn that this is called 'iterative process' and it is necessary to come up with something that works.

What qualities are important for a materials engineer?

  • an analytical mind set
  • the ability to relate the chemical, physical, mechanical behaviour of materials
  • good teamwork and communication skills
  • proactive nature.

How is your degree relevant to your job?

It trained me to problem solve by making me engage in case studies where I had to work with other engineers and figure out a solution to a problem through a mixture of solid data and creativity.

How did you get involved with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES)?

I knew about WES since freshers week, however I really got involved with them during my third year, when I joined my university society (WES QMUL). As event's officer, I organised talks where our female engineering lecturers candidly shared their personal experience.

I also had the opportunity to join the WES Annual Student Conference, where other bright engineers inspired me. At the moment I am part of two WES groups - the Climate Emergency Group, which aims to connect professionals across industries to inspire the delivery of sustainable solutions, Net Zero Carbon and the UN SDGs, and the recently formed Equality Diversity and Inclusion Group.

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to become Chartered and move into the sustainability sector, where materials engineers are needed. I am confident I will be able to transfer my multi-disciplinary knowledge and problem-solving skills to a consultancy based role.

Tell us about an issue affecting the engineering sector today.

The lack of female representation and diversity throughout the sector is a real issue. It effects young people's confidence in their skills as well as their exposure to the sector altogether.

The word 'engineering' is more often associated to white men wearing hard hats. We must extend the meaning of this word to creativity, innovation, and technology and to all the sectors it includes aside from buildings and transport.

What advice would you give to other aspiring materials engineers?

If you enjoy the subject but you are doubtful about your capabilities, look for role models in your family, your school and your professional institutions and see for yourself that there isn't only one way to be an engineer.

Want to share your story?

Get in touch by emailing editorial@prospects.ac.uk to tell us about your job, apprenticeship, course, work experience or gap year.

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