Navigating Covid-19

Hello and welcome to my new blog!

I know we are all sick of reading about it, but my first blog post can’t ignore the current global situation that we are all finding ourselves in. It is disruptive and distressing for so many people, with hundreds out of work or facing uncertain futures. This current situation is what has driven me to start writing a blog, as I have been able to spend some time reflecting on what I enjoy spending my time doing and what I am good at. I am often asked for advice and guidance on how to get into engineering and the various paths and job roles that people can pursue, so I thought I would start compiling this information in one place. I will also give an insight into the daily life of being a female engineer, sharing the trials and tribulations of this career path and giving my perspective on situations that arise along the way. I am passionate about getting more young people (particularly women) interested in engineering as it is such a diverse and fulfilling career, plus we need good engineers to ensure we have a sustainable future.

Now onto Covid…

2020 reality

JCB sent us home in the middle of March, and after a few weeks working from home I was furloughed along with the entire engineering workforce. My furloughment lasted for 12 weeks, spending half of this time navigating through a comprehensive redundancy process which resulted in a reduction of 40% of engineers at JCB. This was a very stressful time, although fortunately I was able to retain my job through this process. It has been really hard to see so many brilliant engineers leave JCB, but I am hopeful that they will land on their feet in new roles over the coming weeks.

I was determined to use this period of ‘free’ time positively to work on various skills and personal developments which have been on the to-do list for a while. This focus helped me stay as sane as possible during lockdown, which my household took (and are still taking) very seriously as we were shielding to protect my 94 year old grandma.

I discovered Open Learn as a resource for free courses, which is run by the Open University and offers a huge range of courses for all levels (https://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue). I’ve always been interested in forensics, and forensic engineering is something that fascinates me but I have had no experience in this field. However, over furloughment I completed a couple of free introductory courses on forensic engineering, which was really interesting. I would definitely recommend checking their website out to see if there’s anything on there which could help you to develop your own personal skills and knowledge. It’s great having access to such great content for free; it’s definitely worth making the most of.

I also successfully applied for the Women in Data Academy run by the TechTalent Academy, who were offering sponsored places for women to learn how to become Data Scientists and Engineers in the West Midlands. I am still completing this via distance learning once a week, which I am really enjoying and finding I am learning so many new skills. I had no previous experience of coding in Python or R, but I have spent a few months learning these languages and am ready to start doing a bit more of this alongside my current role. Once I complete this academy I will take the BCS Essentials Certificate in Artificial Intelligence to gain a formal qualification.

On a more personal level I significantly improved my running regime, comfortably running 5km trail runs twice a week. This has been a long journey to get to this point after a significant knee injury I sustained last year playing Roller Derby. I also started practising yoga on a (nearly) daily basis, which is unfortunately something I haven’t been able to maintain since starting back at work.

During the redundancy procedure at JCB I threw myself into applying for jobs to have something to fall back on in case the worst happened, and I was heartened by the responses and feedback I got from a wide range of engineering fields. I found LinkedIn to be such a valuable tool through this whole process, which I have already used extensively but really felt that it came into its own when looking for a potential new job role. I have also tried to help as many of my colleagues past and present when it comes to their LinkedIn visibility, leaving people recommendations and endorsing them to try and help them move onto their next position. If you’re reading this and think this would help you out, please reach out and I will do what I can to help.

Over the last few months I have thrown myself into a lot of STEM ambassador voluntary work and WES voluntary work which involves transcribing an infamous female engineer’s 1958 diary. I can’t wait until I can share more about this project I have been on in partnership with the Women’s Engineering Society! I have enjoyed being able to support more STEM initiatives remotely, getting involved in webinars and completing my CREST Assessor training. Usually I can support a couple of events per year with work, but being able to support in my spare time and remotely means I can get much more involved with STEM ambassador volunteering.

I have been back at work since mid-July now, and had been working from home until this last week when I was called back into the office full time. I have enjoyed working from home and tried to make the most of my extra 3 hours I gained from not having to commute over to Derby every day. I tried to keep up my morning running routine, but unfortunately that won’t be possible now I am back to leaving the house at 6:30am. Life in the office is very different, with us being spread out for social distancing and having such a huge number of leavers. It is going to take a few months I think before things will start to feel a bit more normal again, as we all adapt to our new working practices and smaller teams.

Hope everyone is staying safe and well, and are staying as sane as possible in the current circumstances. As always, if anyone wants to reach out please feel free to drop me an email at thefemaleengineerblog@gmail.com.

Emilie

The Female Engineer

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