How I transitioned from stay-at-home mum to graduate engineer

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Posted by  Shailaja Mantha
Posting date: 10/06/2023 06:18

When it comes to unexplored paths, careers in engineering might not always be suggested to women. However, one woman's determination and passion for maths, physics, and engineering led her on an incredible journey. Join us as we explore Katie Blair's inspiring transition from stay-at-home mum to graduate rail engineer at AtkinsRéalis.

Finding my path to engineering

I always loved maths, physics and engineering at school, but I had no idea where studying these could take me. Careers like "engineer" and "scientist" were simply not suggested to me (which I imagine is down to my gender).

Unexpected Turns and New Beginnings

It turned out not to matter because I found out I was pregnant and couldn't attend college. I had my baby, met my partner, and we completed our family with another baby. Once the kids were both at school, I was ready to get a job.

Embracing opportunity

By this time, multiple campaigns were in the news to get more women and girls involved in engineering. It gave me the confidence I needed to enroll in an Access to Engineering course, leading to studying an integrated Master's degree in Applied Physics (MPhys) at Aston University.

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Overcoming fears and building confidence

I was worried I might feel out of place, but my industrial placement with AtkinsRéalis in the Electrification and Plant (E&P) team in 2019 was a massive boost to my confidence. Nobody cared that I was a woman or that my previous work experience consisted of "mum." They just wanted me to be enthusiastic and ready to learn. That's it.

Joining the EMC team

After my experience with the E&P team, I joined the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) team as a graduate engineer in September 2021. The work is consistently challenging, but the team is supportive, providing opportunities to work on complex projects like HS2, whilst balancing work and family life.

Embracing ED&I culture

ED&I culture at AtkinsRéalis is strong. Groups like Empower (women's network) and Equilibrium (LGBTQIA+) directly relate to issues that affect me. I've also attended events as an ally with the Embrace (racial equality) network and the Neurodiversity network.

Continuous learning and supportive colleagues

I was worried about leaving academia because I love learning, but extensive learning opportunities as a graduate engineer at AtkinsRéalis have made me feel like anything is possible. My colleagues are amazing, and they've made me feel accepted. I’m not "a woman in engineering." I’m an Engineer.

My ambition is to help the electrical systems practice evolve and adapt to advances in digital technology and AI. So, AtkinsRéalis is enabling me to complete my Masters in Computer Science by combining a digital apprenticeship from The University of Bath with my existing role. I'm so excited about this opportunity. It's an absolute dream come true!

Looking back, I feel immense gratitude for the opportunities, support, and growth I've experienced at AtkinsRéalis. The journey has been enriching and empowering, from academic pursuits to personal growth, filled with challenges, learning, and acceptance.

Inspired by Katie's story? Explore job opportunities at AtkinsRéalis. You'll be in great company!

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