Leanne Brown, apprentice hydraulic technician, talks about what it's like to be a woman in an engineering role for International Women in Engineering Day.
Why did you decide to enter the engineering field?
In first year at school, I was roped into attending an engineering presentation by Schlumberger. At the time I was dead against engineering, and had no interest in the field until I went to the talk and they explained more about the role. It sounded like good fun and I became really interested so I went home that night and said to my parents “I know what I want to do. I want to become an engineer.” No one in my family were engineers, they all work in the construction business, so I think it was a bit of a shock to everyone.
When the time came to pick my subjects at school, I chose with engineering in mind, so took physics, graphic communication and maths. I was also involved in Skills for Work Engineering and Skills for Work Energy. I was the only girl in the engineering class and was even awarded Best Engineering Pupil at the end of the course.
I think it was really helpful that I knew early on what I wanted to do, because it meant I could pick subjects I knew I needed to become an engineer. It was a struggle at first, but I really wanted it and knew it would pay off.
What attracted you to join the apprenticeship scheme at Sparrows?
When I left school I was happy with my grades but I knew I needed to be more employable so I decided to attend North East Scotland College and joined the Performance Engineering Operations course followed by NC Marine Engineering. I had heard of Sparrows before and my college hydraulics lecturer Tommy Birkett used to work with the company, so when he offered to hand in my CV I was delighted. I secured an interview and was quickly accepted as an apprentice hydraulic engineer.
What does your role involve?
As part of my apprenticeship, I get the opportunity to gain experience in different engineering disciplines within Sparrows. I’m currently in the pumps and motors workshop where I dismantle and rebuild pumps, motors, gearboxes and brakes and really enjoy it. I’m able to learn the ropes, building some motors myself and also get to shadow other technicians so I can learn to do things independently.
Were you concerned about entering a traditionally male dominated environment and how have you found it?
I actually have a lot of female friends that are engineers and I’m lucky to work with great people at Sparrows. Everyone is so welcoming in the workshop and I’m never treated differently to anyone else.
I was a little wary entering engineering as at school I was the only girl in my class, but you really are just treated as part of the team. I also think there is a perception of engineering being very male dominated but things are definitely changing. I think if you’re a young girl looking to enter the field I would say go for it! There are so many opportunities and you can get the chance to travel the world, I just love it! Engineering offers such variety, every day is so different. One day I could be dismantling equipment and the next day building a pump or motor. No day is the same and that’s why I enjoy it so much.
Do you have any careers goals?
I completed my HNC in mechanical engineering last year and was thrilled to graduate with an A but I’m really keen to continue my education. I’m hoping to attend night classes so I can achieve my HND. I’ll complete my apprenticeship in August so I know it’ll be difficult balancing work and studying but I know it’ll be worth it.
In the future, I’d love to progress out of the workshop and maybe become an engineer in the office.