Case study

Mass production graduate engineer — Flora Hodges

Flora did a BEng Mechanical Engineering at Swansea University before joining Toyota Motor Manufacturing

Why did you decide on this career?

Originally I wanted to be a vet, then after a week of work experience at a local veterinary clinic when I was 14 I realised that I didn't like blood, puss or anything else that is produced by a living thing. So, I decided to be a 'vet of machines' instead. I did enjoy watching Scrapheap Challenge far more than Animal Park anyway.

How did you get your job with Toyota Motor Manufacturing?

I applied for the graduate roll through the Toyota website, I then had a few interviews and an assessment centre day. I did a 'year in industry' as part of my university course, and I believe that this gave me a step-up when applying to engineering roles. 

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

By making it more normal. Call us all engineers, not just female engineers. I've always felt that putting our sex in front of our occupation only highlights the gap. Successful female engineers want to be represented as a great engineer, not just a female one.

What's a typical day like as a mass production engineer?

During the day I am on-call for any engineering issues on my line, my work phone is always on loud. Alongside this, I make plans for future line kizens (continuous improvements), I do trials on new tools or new parts that we are planning to implement, do necessary paperwork regarding these changes and look at how I can yokoten (share) my changes with the other lines to support the continuous improvement of the plant.

What qualities do you think are important for a mass production engineer?

The ability to think on your feet and good people skills. Also being able to go to the source (Genchi Genbutsu) of the issue and ask the right questions is a skill that I'm always working on.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

Seeing small improvements make a big impact.

As a woman in engineering what challenges have you faced?

In previous employment and at university, I was told many times that I've only got that job because I was a girl, or that the opportunity was given to me because I was a girl. This has made me feel like an imposter at my own job. I've told myself, even if I did get these things because I am a female, I got them because I am the best female for that job, and therefore I belong in that position.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Learning how to think in an engineering way was a big part of my degree that I still carry. I have probably forgotten every equation taught to me other than Pythagoras, but I can still use these problem-solving skills to determine a solution to a problem.

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

I joined WES when I was at university, and I continued my membership through to my current job. I used their online job finder when I was looking for placements and graduate schemes during my degree.

What are your career ambitions?

I don't really have a five-year plan for my career. I will just keep working my way up and I'll ensure that I am happy at every step of the way, if not, then I'll make a change. I believe to succeed at any job, I should enjoy it, because if I don't enjoy it at my current level, then who's to say I'll be happier at the top? 

What advice can you give to other aspiring females engineers?

Enjoy the small wins. I've always found the small successes along the journey feel better than the final win.

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