Who would’ve thought a person could go from receptionist to assistant engineer? I certainly would not… if I hadn’t done it myself!

My path to engineering was not a traditional one. Leaving secondary school at age 17, I was unsure of the career I wanted. With little knowledge of engineering, I began working for AECOM as a receptionist, and this is where I was exposed to engineering and the incredible impact of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). A few years later, I was offered the opportunity to join AECOM’s apprenticeship programme. I began a BTEC Level 3 in civil engineering at college, going to classes one day a week and working the remaining four days. I furthered my education in subjects such as surveying, science, and materials and health safety.

Since then, I’ve attended seminars, workshops and forums to discuss, present and showcase apprenticeships and how they can enhance a young person’s skillset and offer a well-defined career path. From this experience, I’ve taken a keen interest in sharing my own story as a way to encourage others to join the profession — or at the least, to understand that it’s a great possibility.

Although STEM subjects were taught in school, I never considered pursuing them as part of my career and day-to-day work. Stereotypes and preconceptions can be an impediment to believing you’re capable of anything, and your options can seem very narrow. This is why I began STEM outreach work, to change young people’s minds and show them different options that they may have thought beyond their reach.

Since becoming a STEM ambassador in January 2017, I work closely with SETPOINT Hertfordshire, and have visited more than ten schools and colleges to promote STEM, participating in career talks, practical activities to engage students, question and answer sessions, and speed events involving a brief five-minute synopsis of my role and career path. Connecting with young people directly gives them the opportunity to ask questions and listen to real-life experiences. The practical activities offer students insight into the day-to-day role of an engineer, and they’re able to apply principles and design ideas to create proposals suitable for scenarios in the real world.

Alongside external STEM activities, I lead in-house structured work experience for students from local schools. It’s extremely rewarding to see some of these students return for summer placements following their time at AECOM, showing how one introduction can influence a person’s course in life.

The term engineer is extremely broad and covers a number of roles and areas of work for an enthusiastic and driven individual, therefore reaching out to as many students as possible is critical to helping them discover this diverse and dynamic world. It’s something I’m passionate about championing for future generations and, most importantly, the future engineers among us. Believe me, anything is possible!

This blog post is part of a series celebrating International Women’s Day 2018 and this year’s theme, #PressForProgress.

Originally published 03.6.2018