Eileen McDermott, 29, is an engineering consultant at consultancy firm Frazer-Nash in Glasgow. She completed an MEng in product design engineering at the University of Strathclyde in 2000. Eileen is chair of the IMechE railway division young engineers, which provides support and networking opportunities for recently graduated engineers in the railway industry.
What is your background?
I was always good at science and maths at school, but I hadn’t considered studying engineering at university. However, during my A-Levels I was invited to spend a summer at
Aberdeen University as part of a programme run by the Women in Science and Engineering group. The scheme was designed to give young women the chance to find out more about a career in engineering through group activities and spending time with female role models in the industry. For the first time it made me realise that engineering was all about problem solving and not just about people in hard hats and I was hooked.
How did you handle your job hunt?
During my penultimate year at university I secured a summer placement with a company called Interfleet Technology in Derby. Although at the time I wasn’t specifically focusing on the railway industry as a possible avenue after I graduated, it gave me the chance to find out more about this career pathway from a consultancy perspective. After I graduated I
knew I wanted to stay in the railway field so I successfully applied for a graduate training programme at Bombardier Transportation, which gave me more of a broader experience of the whole industry.
Did you face any barriers?
I think it is an old-fashioned idea that engineering is completely dominated by men as there are a lot of women now working in the industry. In fact, women tend to make
really good engineers and do very well in the profession if they work hard and have their heart set on this type of career. Of course, at times it can be a little intimidating because it’s not unusual to find yourself sitting in a boardroom with 20 people, with yourself as the
only woman. Indeed, when I was studying for my degree there were only two girls on my course out of 40 people. However, all of this shouldn’t put you off if you have the right attitude and are able to deal with people in the right way.
Any tips for fellow graduates?
Be yourself and have confidence in what you are doing. Engineering is a very exciting field to be in, especially at the moment as there is so much going on, so enjoy it. Women are actively encouraged in the industry, so take advantage of that. Attend any relevant events that are aimed specifically at female engineers and get involved with professional associations like the IMechE. Don’t forget, as a woman you will bring a special blend of skills to the job, like good interpersonal skills as well as technical ability.