Case study

Development and integration engineer — Pauline Dumont

Pauline studied for a BSc in Engineering and an MSc in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Liège in Belgium - completing the final year of her MSc, focusing on automotive mechatronics, at Cranfield University in the UK. She now works as a development and integration engineer

How did you get your job?

A recruiter contacted me on LinkedIn. I was open to new opportunities at the time so I sent him my CV and he matched my profile with my current company. I had two interviews and then they offered me the job.

In parallel, I was in contact with other recruiters and companies. This allowed me to have several job offers and I chose the company and job that were the most suited to my values and ambitions.

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

I chose this career based on what I enjoy and my skills. At school, I was good at maths and science so teachers and my family suggested I go into engineering.

I started engineering studies and I had the chance to do my final year at Cranfield University, focusing on Automotive Mechatronics, via the Erasmus Programme. Then, I found a job as a graduate engineer for the London Electric Vehicle Company and this is how my career in automotive engineering started.

Automotive engineering and engineering in general is typically a male-dominated industry but the fact a job is in a male or female-dominated environment should not be a reason to choose or avoid a career. On the other hand, it is important to keep working towards more diversity in the workplace.

What's a typical day like as an automotive engineer?

My working day generally runs from 8.30am until 5.30pm. I start by catching up on emails, looking at the meetings for the day and prioritising my work.

In terms of activities, I work on integrating a range extender in customer vehicles. I gather customer requirements and understand if our product is fit for the customer's vehicle. Then, I look at the interfaces between the range extender and the vehicle. My job is to understand how we will join both systems and ensure that it will work. Communication with the customer is essential.

I also work on the software. I write code for the range extender and the vehicle to communicate. Safety cases need to be thought of, as well as how both systems will interact. Once the software is built, it needs to be tested to ensure it works correctly. I also use simulations to understand the best way for the range extender to work in the customer's application.

Another part of my role is project management. I ensure the projects run smoothly, are on time and budget. This also includes reporting progress and finances internally and externally.

I can work several days in a row on the same project, then sometimes switch between different projects in one day. Hence, prioritising work and time management are important.

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

Increasing awareness about STEM careers needs to start from a young age. We also need to show girls that women are present in STEM careers.

Once in the workplace, women should be supported to develop, grow and reach higher positions if they wish to do so. Women also need to be supported during and after career breaks. We need to retain women in STEM careers and change the perception that women cannot have a career and a family.

Another important point is that sexism, harassment and bullying complaints need to be taken seriously. No one should feel forced to leave a career because other people make them feel like they do not belong. We all need to work harder for everyone to feel included.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I love seeing the finished product. After working on a project for several months/years, it is greatly rewarding to see the finished product being used by customers, knowing that you delivered what they needed.

What are the challenges?

I work on multiple projects simultaneously. It can be challenging to know which project to prioritise. I regularly need to take a step back to ensure that I focus on the right activity and am still on track to meet our targets.

What qualities are important for an automotive engineer?

  • logical and critical thinking
  • time management
  • good communication (verbal and written)
  • problem solving
  • curiosity.

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

I discovered WES in my second year of employment. I thought it would be great to be part of a group of female engineers. Since I joined, I've attended several meetings organised by my regional cluster.

I've also attended an annual conference where I presented a poster about my work, and won the audience prize. It was incredibly inspiring to meet so many interesting and smart women at the conference.

WES is a great way to meet like-minded women and feel empowered by them. It is also a reminder that we are not alone in this male-dominated world, and that there are amazing women all around the country and the world working hard on making the world a better place.

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to become chief technology officer and keep working in companies that work towards decreasing their impact and the impact of their products on the environment.

Tell us about issues affecting the engineering sector today.

  • Sustainability and decreasing human impact on the environment.
  • Technology is progressing very quickly and we should make sure that it is accessible to poorer people and parts of the world that are less developed too.

What advice would you give to other aspiring female automotive engineers?

The sky is the limit. Believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your dreams.

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