#FERM: My love for ‘problem solving’ leads me to a career in engineering
Could your love for problem solving lead to a major product launch for one of the world’s biggest brands? Well it did for our FERM (Female Engineering Role Model) of the month, Kirstie Wren. She joined Jaguar Land Rover’s graduate scheme as an Advanced Manufacturing Engineer in September 2014, straight from University, and has already played a key role in the launch of the new Jaguar XE.
From an early age, Kirstie had a great interest and aptitude for science and maths; it fascinated her to learn how things worked and how they were made. However it wasn’t until her GCSE years that she became aware of engineering and the huge variety of opportunities it offered. As a young child, Kirstie’s favourite pass times included playing with Lego or doing jigsaw puzzles and she still loves creativity and problem solving to this day. TV programmes such as “How It’s Made” and “Richard Hammond’s Engineering Connections” really ignited her interested in the “real life” application of scientific principles.
In Kirstie’s first year of A Level, she was able to take part in EDT’s Engineering Education Scheme, a 6 month real-life project in which a group of students work closely with an industry mentor to solve a business-related problem. Her team worked with Severn Trent Water to develop a replacement aeration and fluid movement method for an oxidation tank at a small sewage treatment works. Kirstie described the six months spent on the project as “intense but immensely enjoyable.” She continued to say, “I loved the opportunity to conduct research, develop solutions, and build our prototype with the support of our engineering mentors.” After A Level, Kirstie went on to study Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London where she was surrounded and inspired by great engineers in the form of professors and industry speakers.
Now an Advanced Manufacturing Engineer for Jaguar Land Rover, Kirstie plays a key role in the launches of new vehicles. Her most notable being the launch of the new Jaguar XE where she was involved in the automated sealer commissioning and subsequent handover of the process to production. This involved some detailed auditing of vehicles to identify issue root causes and implement fixes. Aside from her career as an engineer, Kirstie gets to spend time with family and friends, enjoys the theatre and loves to bake, she also gets involved in industry outreach as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Ambassador, often going into local schools to support career days promoting careers in STEM, especially to inspire young females.
Kirstie states, “There is a huge amount of focus on encouraging more young women into engineering at the moment, and rightly so if we have any hope of fulfilling the recruitment challenges of the future. These campaigns have done some fantastic work and the percentages of female engineering undergraduates in the UK have dramatically improved: I remember a talk at university given by Judith Hackitt (Chair of the HSE, Imperial Chemical Engineering Alumnus) where she showed a class photo from her university days; she was one of just 2 women, I believe today it’s closer to 25%.” Despite this notable increase, Kirstie believes that, “to meet the overall engineering skills gap, we need to attract young people (boys and girls) who wouldn’t otherwise consider engineering as a career. At the end of the day, it really is just about finding the best people for the job, irrespective of gender. To do that, we need to show male and female role models who aren’t the conventional “man in overalls.”
Do you believe that more should be done to attract underrepresented groups into STEM careers? Get in touch with EDT contact us to find out how you can get involved and make a positive difference.