In line our women in STEM themed ezine earlier this year, EVolocity spoke to three young women who had recently graduated with engineering degrees.
Catherine Downes, Masters of Engineering student – Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Waikato
My favourite subjects in high school were physics and maths. When a teacher suggested I go into engineering, I did a bit of research and felt that mechanical engineering most suited me because I’m very visual. It actually wasn’t until my second and third year at uni that I really began to understand what engineering is and fell in love with it.
I am currently in the final stages of my Master’s project. Once the assembly and testing is complete this month (March 2021) I will write up the thesis and submit it! Then I will go back into industry.
I really enjoy being part of projects which make change and offer much needed solutions to problems. For my Masters, I have been working alongside scientists and engineers to develop a robotic vehicle designed to thin apple orchards, pick blueberries and prune vineyards. For young women thinking about choosing a STEM career, I’d like to dispel the misconception that working in a predominantly male field isn’t enjoyable for women. The majority of my male colleagues are kind and helpful just like anyone else. I also want to say: You can literally be whatever you want to be, whether than be the highest paid designer, CEO or manager!
Cat Smith, Operations Support Trainee, Orion – New Zealand Diploma of Engineering and Bachelor of Engineering Technology, ARA Institute of Canterbury
Exposure to an electronics technology class in high school prompted me to choose engineering as a career. I remember thinking that being able to control an LED so that it turned on automatically when the room got dark was like magic.
Now I work in electrical engineering with a focus on automation for electricity networks! I finished my studies at the end of 2020, and currently work at Orion (Canterbury’s electricity network owner) in the operations department. Electricity is a STEM industry where ‘you only really notice it when things go wrong’. When things are going right, our customers are supplied with power and they needn’t think twice about flicking a switch.
I love being part of a team of ‘everyday superheroes’ that is working behind the scenes and around the clock to enable that. In my last job, and given day testing the electricity network could have you: waist deep in a dirt trench in the rain, off-roading up the side of a hill, eating lunch with a lakeside view, or even being called five times in a minute because the power went off from where you were working… no two days are the same!
I think it’s important to dispel the misconception that creative work and STEM are two separate pathways. Mathematics and science are the foundations for all that we know about our physical world, and their concepts are just as beautiful as fine art. Combining technical and creative thinking broadens the possibilities of what can be innovated and created. The possibilities are endless, and in my opinion – STEM is real-life magic.
My advice to students is to look beyond the ‘four-year university degree’ pathway into STEM. There are many other options (e.g. polytechnics, trades, and apprenticeships) which may be better suited to your life, and learning style.
Hozea Lopez, Project Engineer at Vortex Group – Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Computer Systems, University of Auckland
I’ve always had a love for science and maths and that helped me to choose a career in engineering. Now that I have started my career, I enjoy the on-the-job learning – there are so many new things to learn. I also like that my role gives me a mixture of office-based work and site-based work. Variety is great.
What I love about working at Vortex is being involved in making electricity more accessible to the most remote places. It’s amazing that there are still places with little to no electricity and it’s also amazing what we can do to get people in these remote places connected. I love seeing structures that have been around for hundreds of years and the design that went into it.
I’d like to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers. Don’t be afraid of giving it try. You might end up liking it, or it might be different to what you expected it to be.
First published in Issue Seven of the EVolocity ezine