Aisling Crowley and Nia Hodnett from Salix Finance's Technical Team demonstrate why opportunities such as the Women’s Engineering Society's work shadowing scheme are key to gender diversity and inclusion in the field.
Aisling Crowley and Nia Hodnett have been part of the Salix Technical Team since 2018, supporting and providing due diligence for carbon saving, energy efficiency and renewable projects across the public sector. They have both recently joined the Women's Engineering Society (WES). Founded in 1919, the charity functions as a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. The London cluster of WES runs a work shadowing week each year, which took the form of a virtual shadowing day hosted by Salix on 16th July 2020.
Hosting the day virtually required creative thinking in order to construct an immersive experience online. Aisling and Nia structured the day by splitting it into two separate tasks which would provide the learners with an opportunity to focus on the engineering aspect of the Technical Support Officer role. The pair shared their personal experience of how they came to work in Techincal Services at Salix and the importance of the strong purpose and values offered by the company.
Aisling and Nia studied degrees in Chemistry and Biology respectively and are both pursuing a long-term career in sustainability in which they hope to utilise their specialist skills and training. Nia initially intended to follow a path in nursing, but was compelled by the political and environmental impact of the climate change movement to complete a BSc in Biology at Cardiff University, followed by an MSc in Climate Change, Development and Policy at the University of Sussex. This gave her an insight into the breadth and challenges of the sector, inspiring her to forge a career in an increasingly relevant field, which began with her role at Salix. Growing up, Aisling developed a strong sense of connection to the environment which shaped her ambition for the future. She went on to study a BSc in Chemistry at the University of Bristol, which gave her an understanding of the causes and effects of anthropogenic emissions and insight into what both engineers and scientists are able to achieve through collaborative work and research.
On the day, it was important that the learners had the opportunity to share their career ambitions and to ask questions about how Aisling and Nia's different backgrounds led to their current roles. After this introductory mentor session, the first task of the day focused on calculating the carbon savings for three types of projects: lighting, solar and boilers. This activity presented an understanding of how skills in data analysis can be used in a professional capacity. In the afternoon, the three learners each prepared a presentation, where Aisling and Nia offered coaching during the preparation stage. The presentations consisted of two contrasting proposals for a carbon management plan at a hypothetical school. The first proposal targeted projects with a focus on a financial business case, with the second proposal prioritising carbon savings. By the end of the day, all participants had gained valuable experience within their fields and had expanded their professional networks.
Raising the profile of women in engineering is essential in the ongoing mission to inspire and support women from all backgrounds in pursuing a STEM-focused career. For more information or to join WES, visit https://www.wes.org.uk/.