….always a slightly geeky, logical kind of person. I chose to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering at a time when there were 3 million unemployed, when for the first time a degree didn’t guarantee a job, when industry was being decimated. I chose it because I liked physics and maths, and because it did more or less ensure there were jobs available.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the course, but was saved by a placement at the end of my second year, at a power station in Yorkshire. It was tiny (and has long since closed), but it taught me that there was a lot more to engineering than equations and diagrams. Engineering turned out to be about people, experience, making best use of resources, and occasionally whacking lumps of metal with a spanner. It was about the sense of achievement when things went right and working together when things went wrong. My first real job was on a different power station – abut five times the size of the one where I did my placement. Again, engineering turned out to be as much about people as plant. I learned a huge amount from the people I met there, and will always be more grateful to them than they might believe.
I encountered sexism on a daily basis (this was the very early 1990’s) – each comment was funny to the bloke (sorry, but it always was) who said it, but there were very few I hadn’t heard before, so they were less funny to me. I learned to stand up and fight back, to come up with the smarter put down, to get my elbows out in ways that nice girls didn’t. I learned to make gobby blokes shut up and blush in front of their mates, not a kind skill, but a useful one in those days. And I learned to swear, heartily, fluently, and with variety.
I moved from the power station to headquarters, long before I earned any right to call myself a power station engineer. But those two and a half years informed the rest of my time in the industry. I was never as intimidated again as I was those first few weeks.
And how did I get here? That’s another story….