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Insights #INWED20: Let's raise the profile of our talented women.

International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED20) is an exciting opportunity for us to raise the profile of our talented women. It's also a time to double down on our commitment, enabling female employees to Shape the World. In this blog, we spoke to Martina Finn, Director of Infrastructure for Atkins Ireland. 

image of Martina presenting

Martina graduated from the University of Ulster in 1995, and worked as a graduate engineer in Northern Ireland, the UK and Australia before returning to Ireland in 2001. She joined Atkins as a project structural engineer and became the Director of Infrastructure for Atkins Ireland in 2018. 
Born in 1971 into a family of nine, Martina Finn, is the youngest of five girls with four brothers. Her father was an only child and worked in factories all his life and her mother was a full-time stay at home mother. Neither of her parents were 3rd level educated so they had great emphasis on working hard to educate us so that we all had the opportunities that they didn’t have. So today in her family there are three accountants, two entrepreneurs, one safety manager, one logistics manager, one educational psychologist and one chartered engineer. 

Was there a definitive moment in your life that steered you towards a career in the industry? 

I attended a careers evening at my school in my final year and met an ex-pupil from my school who was studying Civil engineering in college. I was influenced and enthused by his communication of his experience in engineering to date and as I also had a great aptitude for subjects like Maths and Technical Drawing in school, I felt that a career in engineering would be suitable for me. 

What’s the most rewarding thing about what you do?

Earlier in my career I found providing engineering solutions and solving problems rewarding. However now as my career has progressed, the more rewarding aspects including mentoring fellow engineers including women at all levels in Atkins Ireland, giving back in the form of assisting my ex-college as an alumni who assists in setting, reviewing and correcting exam papers, visiting primary and secondary schools to promote STEM at the grass roots of our education system  and attending and promoting Women in Engineering events within our Industry. 

How has your experience been as a woman in the industry? Is it what you expected, for better or for worse?

My experience as a woman in the industry since my career started has generally been very positive. There are times when I have come up against others with a chauvinistic attitude however I generally deal with this in an empathic manner through my people management skills, engineering knowledge and professionalism. If I ever see this occurring to junior women in engineering, I will do a subtle intervention so as not to openly embarrass anyone and then deal with it on a one-to-one basis constructively to ensure that this does not reoccur and that attitudes change for the better.  

What advice would you give to younger women in the organisation?

Be yourself and let your confidence as a woman in engineering along with your engineering knowledge help you grow in your career. Never be afraid to ask for help or support as these are signs of bravery and not weakness. Whilst progressing through my career, I have had 3 children and I feel that as a woman, we can have it all and can do it all providing personal and professional support structures are in place. I have been fortunate to have chosen Atkins early on in my career as the support structures such as flexible working and defined unbiased routes to progression offered to me have been instrumental in my career progression whilst striking a healthy work-life balance.  I try to impart my experiences, both personal and professional to other women in engineering to help them with their career progression whilst managing their home lives.      

Why do you think awareness and action around diversity and inclusion is important to the engineering industry?

image of martina with her team

I think that awareness and action around diversity and inclusion in the workplace is vital to aid a happy and healthy workplace. It is particularly important in engineering and in companies like Atkins to have greater diversity and inclusion in our offices as I find that it results in a more positive working environment, innovative and different solutions, happier staff and lower attrition. In Atkins Ireland I feel we have a very good level of diversity and inclusion, which we encourage strongly.  

In what ways do you champion diversity and inclusion in your role?

Having worked for Atkins for almost 20 years, I have had the pleasure of working on various projects in various parts of the world. I have extensive experience of working with various different cultures and ethnicities. My career has afforded me the experience of living and working on projects in Ireland, UK, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.  This diverse experience of working as a woman in engineering in these different cultures has allowed me to develop a deep appreciation and respect for different viewpoints and ideas in applying innovative engineering solutions. In my role in Atkins Ireland, this is something I drive and encourage through areas such as STEM, recruitment and mentoring. One of the areas that I try to encourage and support within Atkins is the self-promotion of women in the organisation not only through their technical career development but also through participating in external programmes such as publishing papers, presenting at conferences and being involved in our professional bodies. These endeavours not only benefit the person but are also of great benefit to Atkins. 

Do you have any role models who inspire you, or mentors who have helped you achieve the position you’re in today?

My parents are my greatest role models as they instilled great values and ethics into myself and my siblings throughout our lives. In my professional career, Camilla Sjostrand was my line manager when I joined Atkins and she was a great mentor and advocate of Women in Engineering and supported me through my early career with Atkins. As I have progressed through Atkins, Tom O’Malley, ex-Atkins Ireland MD has also been a great role model and support to me. Worth a special mention is my current MD Justin Norman. We have worked together since 2003 and I was a mentor for Justin in his early career but since he has progressed in his career, he has turned from mentee to mentor and over the last number of years has provided invaluable support to me and others and is a great role model for both women and men in the organisation and in engineering.

The theme of this year’s International Women in Engineering Day is “Shape the World”. What kind of world would you like to see for women in engineering?

image of martina with her family

I would like to see a world where we don’t see a difference in women in engineering as opposed to men in engineering. I am a mother of 3 boys and I try to instil this through my role as a mother and also through my role as a woman in engineering in Atkins. Since I started my career in engineering in 1995, the world has changed significantly for women in engineering and through myself and my peers and colleagues, we need to continue to “Shape the World” and encourage more women into engineering and support them through their career development. 

What’s one action that people can take to help make a career in STEM a more attractive choice for women?

As mentioned above, I have been involved in Women in Engineering events, which have largely been geared towards encouraging school girls to consider a career in engineering by sharing my path and experiences with them. I feel that getting in to speak with girls at junior and senior school levels to explain the benefits of STEM subjects as key subject choices is critical along with explaining the benefits of a career in engineering through my own positive experiences as a Woman in Engineering whilst playing my part in “Shaping the World”.