Case study

Energy engineer — Karoline Lende

Karoline Lende studied MEng Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London before getting her job in Advanced Digital Engineering at Arup

Why did you decide on this career?

In school I enjoyed physics and maths, and using logic to solve problems. I wanted to study something where I could apply theory to solve real-life problems and engineering seemed like a good fit. I liked the idea that engineers essentially help our society continue to function, building and maintaining everything from small computers to massive buildings and large-scale energy systems. As an engineer I would be able to contribute something tangible to society, and that's why I decided to pursue it.

How did you get your job at Arup?

Throughout my studies I had heard about Arup, being one of the major engineering consultancies, so in my final year I looked for graduate roles there. I found a role related to fluid dynamics and environmental physics which seemed to align very well with my interests and the topic I had chosen for my Masters thesis. So I applied, got an interview, and was lucky enough to get the job.

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

I think it's really important to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects from a young age. A great way of doing that is telling them what sort of career opportunities these subjects bring - I certainly had no idea when I was in school. I'm working as a STEM ambassador and do my best to give students an insight into what a career in engineering might look like. Engineering is such a diverse field, I really think there is something in it for everyone.

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

My job is mainly desk based but still varied. In a typical day I might be doing focused work on a particular problem, meet with colleagues to plan future work or discuss results, present projects to external audiences or meet with clients.

For example, right now I am working on a project to investigate if wave energy can be made more affordable by using concrete as a construction material. Specifically, that involves me using structural models to develop designs of concrete wave energy devices, speaking to engineers who work in the wave energy industry, calculating costs, developing construction methods, and reporting progress back to the client.

For another project I’ve worked on, I've been analysing monitored data from an offshore wind turbine foundation. I've used this data to calculate loads on the structure to understand whether it would be safe to continue to operate the turbine at the end of its design life. The turbines are often designed conservatively, which means we can justify an extension of the life using monitored data, and get more renewable energy out of each asset.

What qualities do you think are important for an energy engineer?

I think a practical approach to problem solving with a good working knowledge of theory (maths and physics) is important. But equally important are good written and oral communication skills, teamwork, organisation and time management.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I pursued engineering because I felt it would enable me to make a difference. Knowing that the work I do on projects actually has an impact gives me a lot of satisfaction. For example, I've recently been working on making wave energy more affordable and ensuring wind turbines can operate beyond their design life. This will help increase the amount of renewable sources in our energy mix and help transition towards net zero carbon.

As a woman in engineering what challenges have you faced?

Building the confidence to speak up, express my opinion and ask questions. In a male-dominated environment it can be easy to feel like your opinion isn't important, but I'm lucky that I have colleagues who listen and are respectful.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Although there are several aspects of my degree I no longer use, I apply knowledge from other modules daily, such as structural design and fluid dynamics. Equally important I think is the other skills you learn at university such as learning how to learn and absorb information, managing your time and prioritising tasks, writing reports, and how to approach problems you're not sure how to solve.

How did you get involved with the Women's Engineering Society (WES) and how have they supported you?

I heard about WES through one of their annual lectures and started to going to more of their events. I then also signed up to their mentoring scheme as a mentor. Connecting with other women in the industry has been really helpful and rewarding.

What are your career ambitions?

I'm currently working on getting professionally registered as a chartered engineer. In the future I’d like to explore new ways in which engineering principles can be combined with data science and emerging technologies to provide better solutions. I think there are a lot of new skills for engineers to learn in order to stay ahead of the curve and keep innovating.

What advice can you give to other aspiring female engineers?

Don't feel like there are certain career paths you can't pursue just because you are a woman. Think about what you find the most interesting and what opportunities there are in that field, and your career will become so much more enjoyable and rewarding.

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