Delivered by the Women’s Engineering Society, International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), is an international awareness campaign to celebrate the achievements and work of female engineers. Taking place on Wednesday 23rd June, INWED focuses on the many amazing opportunities and career paths available to women in engineering aimed at raising the profile of women in engineering.
To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2021 we spoke to Melissa Ahmed, Managing Director of Techwuman, to tell us more about her journey into the engineering world and how she is spreading the message to younger girls to encourage them to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) as a career option in the future.
The Journey to Techwuman
Melissa’s journey started when she was in Year 9 at school deciding which subject options she would like to take. “I’ve always been quite creative, and I loved science, but I was unsure what career to choose so I decided to opt for subjects which I found interesting and liked doing. I took media, art and separate sciences, and even though taking separate sciences was challenging, I really enjoyed it and thought it would be a good subject to pursue due to the range of career prospects it provides” says Melissa.
“After finishing high school, I went onto college to study Biology, Chemistry, Physics & Maths at A-Level and determined that I’d like to continue with these subjects,” she continues. “When I was getting advice about which courses I’d like to study at University, my parents suggested engineering as it incorporates both design and science, rather than medicine, the typical career progression with these subjects"
“I took part in a number of different work placements which helped me identify that medicine was not for me. I continued trying out different placements and one that really stood out for me was an engineering role at Heathrow Airport which involved shadowing an aircraft engineer. This placement cemented my decision to take up a career in engineering”, explains Melissa.
"Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment." - Rosalind Franklin, chemist, molecular biologist, and one of the key figures behind unlocking the structure of human DNA.
University and Placement Year
When Melissa started at university, she knew that she wanted to take a placement year so that she could gain some work experience whilst completing her degree. “I secured a placement for a role in mechanical engineering which was different to what I was studying at university. The company I was placed at manufactures security products and initially I was worried that I wouldn’t have the right knowledge as my degree was in aeronautical engineering. However, very soon I learned how versatile roles in the engineering industry can be, as the core engineering principles are the same,” says Melissa.
“During my placement, I worked as a design engineer, designing products on SOLIDWORKS and then seeing them come to life, once they were made in the factory. It was nice being involved in the end to end design of the product, and it gave me the opportunity to learn about the factory machinery along the way. I also enjoyed the iterative nature of design, and how products could be tweaked to improve them.”
Life After University
“Being a graduate, I was keen to find a role that would give me industrial experience as well as the opportunity to develop myself. I secured a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) which gave me the opportunity to fulfil both. The aim was to improve the design process of security products and this was where I developed my SOLIDWORKS skills. I was able to reduce the design cost of the development of a product by 40% and implement modern design and simulation processes,” explains Melissa.
The Beginnings of Techwuman
Techwuman was set up so Melissa had the opportunity to dedicate time promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to other females whilst delivering engineering consultancy projects. The name “Techwuman” showcases the mission of the company; to promote diversity and gender parity in the engineering industry, bringing men and women together to generate diverse ideas and insights into design. Techwuman is committed to giving back to the industry, to help address the gender gap prevalent in some STEM industries. All of the Techwuman directors devote their time to mentoring – giving up their time to develop mentees’ CVs, employability skills and provide support for job interviews.
Techwuman STEM Activity Days
Research shows that young people’s awareness of STEM increases by 90% following STEM events. This is one of the reasons why Techwuman delivers STEM Activity Days and participates in events; to promote STEM and improve the perception of STEM careers to the younger generation.
In just under 2 years of starting the STEM Activity Day programme, Techwuman has been able to deliver to over 2,000 pupils across the UK. Techwuman’s vision is to demonstrate to the younger generation that there are numerous opportunities available to them, which they may not have considered before.
“By participating in STEM Activity days pupils are given the opportunity to experience different aspects of STEM careers which starts them thinking about their career early on; this can generate an interest in a STEM career. We host STEM activity days in primary schools; we focus on primary schools because this gives pupils time to think about what they’d like to pursue as a career before they have to choose their GCSE subjects,” continues Melissa. “The framework of our STEM activity days is based on delivering activities which are fun and learning is achieved by participation in practical activities. The activities are expertly designed so that they incorporate STEM careers, teamwork and basic STEM theoretical concepts – providing an early opportunity for the children to hear and use appropriate terminology like “design engineer”.
Part of the STEM Activity Day is meeting our STEM ambassadors who have diverse backgrounds and have their own story to tell. We currently have over 60 STEM Ambassadors and more than 70% are female which is something I am really proud of; pupils can see first-hand the number of females in STEM careers which can help to challenge established stereotypes and perceptions that may be in place,” explains Melissa.
Melissa explains more about the ambassadors “Our ambassadors are all at different points in their career, some are at university studying for their degree whilst some are qualified professionals in STEM industries. It is really rewarding when at the end of the activity day the pupils can all tell me what STEM stands for and a girl tells me that they want to be an engineer like me when they grow up! It is such a good feeling to know you have succeeded in inspiring someone into STEM.
“In the future I would like to expand delivery of our STEM activity days outside of the UK. I’m originally from the Maldives so I’d love to go back there and be a role model for the younger generation, inspiring them – that would be really nice,” comments Melissa.
Becoming a SOLIDWORKS Champion
During the start of 2020, Solid Solutions put together a program of SOLIDWORKS Certification webcasts to allow customers to gain some SOLIDWORKS qualifications whilst in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, Melissa took this opportunity to develop professionally and take the SOLIDWORKS exams reaching the CSWP (Professional) level along with Greg, Technical Director at Techwuman.
“Greg and myself completed a number of SOLIDWORKS certifications last year using the Solid Solutions webcasts. At the time we were all in lockdown and some of our projects had been put on hold, so we took the opportunity to enhance our SOLIDWORKS skills,” explains Melissa.
Melissa was then approached to become a SOLIDWORKS Champion. The SOLIDWORKS Champion Program is an industry user-focused program that aims to acknowledge and comment on community members from around the world who go above and beyond in sharing their SOLIDWORKS passion and expertise. “I thought that becoming SOLIDWORKS champions would be a really good opportunity to keep abreast of SOLIDWORKS innovations and promote the STEM work that we do. Greg and I were some of the first few to become SOLIDWORKS Champions and being a champion has allowed us to network with like-minded professionals from around the world,” says Melissa.
Visit their website: https://www.techwuman.co.uk/ - If you would like to sponsor a STEM activity day or to learn more about Techwuman, their mission, or to apply to the STEM ambassador programme.