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I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them I’m an engineer!

19 June 2020

Elaine Campbell is a Senior Structural Engineer with Atkins. She believes the key to attracting more women into the industry is educating school pupils about the variety of career paths the industry has to offer.

I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them I’m an engineer!
Elaine Campbell, Senior structural engineer

"I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them I’m an engineer. Depending on the person, sometimes I’m met with confusion, praise or just bewilderment. I have so many female friends and colleagues who are also engineers and I’m certainly not the first woman in engineering and definitely won’t be the last, so I often don’t understand why people are still surprised!

Educating school pupils about career paths is key

"I love going into schools and telling people about engineering and how diverse it is. Through my work with the Aberdeen Association of Civil Engineers (AACE) and Women in Science in Engineering (WISE), which campaigns for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, I have met so many interesting engineers and scientists, working in lots of different areas. It’s nice keeping in touch with them so I can share their career stories and I think educating school pupils about possible career paths into the industry is so important.

"As well as talking to young people about careers, I think it’s important to highlight to students that there doesn’t need to be a ‘job for life’ anymore. The important thing is to stress to pupils how diverse and exciting a career in engineering can be. Research by McKinsey highlighted the benefits of a diverse workforce. Their research found that companies in the top quarter for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry averages.

All companies should adopt flexible working

"I think that flexibie working is one of the biggest factors that will help companies retain staff. If people have a good work-life balance they tend to be happier. By working flexibly, they might have the opportunity to spend more time with family or take an afternoon off every week to pursue leisure interests.

"As the President of the Aberdeen Association of Civil Engineers, we work closely with local schools and science fairs to deliver activities promoting civil engineering. While I have been on maternity leave from my ‘real job' for the last 12 months, I have been able to continue my presidency. I am really proud to be at the helm and grateful to the team I have supporting me. I have attended AACE and ICE Scotland meetings with a baby in tow as well as introducing him to the ICE President on a couple of occasions!

Every day brings a new challenge - Oil rigs and spray tans!

"My real job is as a structural engineer working in oil and gas. I tell people that my role involves making sure things don’t fall off or fall down. If either of these things happen it’s a pretty bad day with everyone needing answers or solutions yesterday! The majority of my time at work is office based but I have been offshore once or twice a year to carry out structural inspections. Lots of the work I do is time critical - this might include working out if it’s structurally safe to set some equipment on a laydown area or thinking about what we will do with some corroded steelwork on a walkway.

"I have had two days at work which really stand out. The first was a few years ago where I went offshore for the day. This was an unusual situation for me as normally offshore trips were a week or two long. I flew out in the morning, got my breakfast offshore then went to inspect a corroded stair tower. I had to discuss options to remove it from use with platform senior management and make a plan for mitigation. My chopper home was delayed – everyone else on the flight was concerned about their onward travel, my worries were more about the spray tan I had booked later on that night!

"My second memorable day was when I did a training course and got to be hands on with the winches and rigging to move example equipment, with the highlight being sitting in a crane trying to pick up an item from a pontoon in a quarry. I gained a massive appreciation for riggers and crane drivers as it’s a lot harder than it looks!

"I really enjoy the challenges that I’ve faced so far in my career and would like to think that by sharing my story I am helping to encourage the next generation. There are so many opportunities out there – do what you enjoy and grasp these great chances that are available.

  • Elaine Campbell, Senior structure engineer at Atkins at Senior structure engineer at Atkins