Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Celebrating National Women in Engineering Day and the Importance of Engineering Internships.

Happy National Women in Engineering Day!

23rd of June: a date during the summer where we hope to have great weather in the UK. Also, it is an important day in the calendar for all engineers - especially those who are female. As a young woman, and Electronics Engineering with Artificial Intelligence undergraduate, this is an important day for me - and very relevant that I highlight this occasion.

Currently in the technology and engineering industry, engineers are celebrated and highlighted in the media, which is a huge step in getting more transparency and visibility into STEM careers. In the media however, it has be noted that there is an engineering skills shortage in the UK and that there are not enough engineers to fill up all the exciting engineering job opportunities availableNational Women in Engineering Day (NWED) has been organised by the Women's Engineering Society (WES) to mark its 95th anniversary. NWED is a day to celebrate and commemorate all the achievements female engineers have made in the industry and raising their profiles. In the process, NWED aims to hold groups e.g. Government, corporations, educational, and Engineering constitutions accountable to support the day, and to spread the message that being an engineer is a great profession. Therefore, NWED is great for the whole engineering industry as more people will be more aware of engineers' work and contribution to society -  a big plus!

Honouring NWED, this blogpost promotes NWED's importance by highlighting moments of a female engineer's career that helped her to flourish. In fact, it is very likely, that any engineering student - male and female- in any discipline, would have experienced it and has the evidence on their CV. Yes, I am talking about internships.

If you are an undergraduate, or was once one, at some point during the year social media is trailed with your student friends' statuses about internships. From "On my way to my internship interview, wish me luck!" to "Pleased to say that I have secured an internship!" that get 50+ likes on Facebook; with comments wishing good luck and not forgetting the odd "Don't embarrass yourself mate ;)". However, what interests me the most in these success stories are how students find out about their internships in the first place.

I asked two female engineering friends of mine, both celebrating National Women in Engineering Day, about their internship experience. Also, I asked for advice applicable to other engineering students on how to find an internship.

Dorota, studying MEng Software Engineering and currently a Site Reliability Engineering Intern at Google.
1. How did you find out about your internship?
"I heard about Google internships when I talked with a Google employee in my final year of school. Few years later, when I visited the Google office in London, I was told exactly about the application process and encouraged to apply. I interned at Google after my second year of university and returned this year (third year) for another internship."
2. What was the interview process like?
"For my first Google internship, I had two programming interviews and later a host-matching one. For the second internship, I had one conversion programming interview and a host-matching one."
3. Any advice to other engineering students finding internships, especially females?
"I would repeat after Sheryl Sandberg: "build your skills, not your resume". Be yourself. Do not try and fill your CV with everything and anything that sounds smart, but instead build your skills doing things that you really enjoy and really care about."
4. Why is National Women in Engineering Day important to you?
"It has been proven that diversity makes teams smarter and more innovative. National Women in Engineering Day is an occasion to promote diversity, which benefits both men and women."

Samiksha, a recent graduate in MEng Space Systems Engineering, and secured two engineering internships whilst at University.
1. How did you find out about your internships?
"During my degree, I did two internships. I learnt about the first internship through the Space Internship Network (SpIN) and UKSEDS, UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. I came to know of my second internship through a Facebook group within my university (my supervisor posted the job in that group)."
2. What work are you doing in your internships?
"For my first internship, I was working at RAL Space, in the Imaging Systems department working on a new detector technology for space cameras i.e. Pink Charged Coupled Devices, and made a LabVIEW interface for Double Coded Digital Sampling (DCDS) instruments. In my second internship, I worked as a MUVIS (Multidisciplinary, Multiscale, Microtomographic Volume Imaging) intern at the University of Southampton in 3D image analysis and 3D printing."
3. Any advice to other engineering students finding internships, especially females?
"Keep a vigilant eye for opportunities. Get actively involved in societies and forums. I love to know about and do space activities, therefore I joined UKSEDS to get useful experience, work on exciting projects, and I stood for committee positions. I have been in the committee for three years now. Due to UKSEDS, I have been able to make industrial contacts and friends interested in space. Furthermore, follow your dreams/interests and job opportunities will tag along. You have to grab those opportunities and don't be shy or lazy! Believe in yourself that you can do it, even though how hard it is because it is best to 'do what you love, love what you do.'."
4. Why is National Women in Engineering Day important to you?
"National Women in Engineering Day is important to create awareness of amazing engineering opportunities to women. It also is a way of empowerment for women who don't feel confident enough to follow their dreams. Especially on this day, we get to read and know about some real-life experiences of women in engineering and get inspired to take initial and bold steps towards our careers."

Internships are helpful because they help decide between what want and do not want to experience in your career. With each internship you complete whilst at University, you become more certain of what companies you would like to work for and confident in which area of engineering you want work in by your final year. Or, you may decide to use your engineering skills to form your own business, or enter into a new field entirely. Either way, internships make sure that your decision is well-informed.

Dorota and Samiksha's way of getting internships are a mixture of formal and informal methods of getting them. The super unconventional way I got my last engineering summer internship all started when I was given a business card by a then-stranger whilst I was travelling to another summer internship interview in London! That stranger became my summer internship supervisor. Although my degree is mostly hardware-based, that summer internship was a Software Engineering internship and I got flown out to The Netherlands twice to give technical and business pitches. It was an amazing experience. Read here, here, here, and here to learn all about it. I have a summer internship this year too, with a wearable tech start-up, and I am super excited about the lessons I will gain from it.

Final advice, there are many alternative ways to find great engineering internships. One example is enginterns.com, the UK No.1 website for engineering internships. Their dynamic and user-friendly website showcases a growing database of  diverse engineering internships suitable for all engineering degrees. Each company's internship advertisement on the website takes into account their locations, whether they are paid, and clear instructions of experience needed. Another way to get experience is attending insight weeks or insight days offered by engineering or media corporations. Check your Careers Page at University for listings, or even go to company websites themselves and check for events for students.

All powerful women started out as little and inquisitive girls.

Celebrating National Women in Engineering Day, we have to recognise that although we are profiling female engineers as one group of the industry they are all very different, and have unique career stories. Each story has their own chain of internships that led them to the engineering jobs they currently have, and the person they are today. Internships is a topic that I have covered many times in earlier blogposts. The journey of getting one can be surprisingly straightforward, or utterly unpredictable. However, once you have snapped your first internship, it is a defining first step in your engineering career. I am sure female engineers celebrating National Women in Engineering Day too, will agree.

Engineers are wanted and needed everywhere - Google, Space, BBC, L'Oreal, Rolls Royce, Goldman Sachs, Warner Bros Studios, Start-Ups, and so many more. In my opinion - To seek opportunities, you need to learn beyond what you know. To have opportunities come to you, you need to be willing to learn beyond what you know.

Engineering our World, a video by the IET.

Thank you so much again to enginterns.com for getting in touch with me after discovering my blog! They inspired me to write a blogpost like this about National Women in Engineering Day, and the importance of engineering internships in a career - for male and females.

Take Courage,


- Post in collaboration with Enginterns.com; all opinions, advice and comments on the engineering industry, National Women in Engineering Day, and engineering internships are my own unless stated otherwise. To get in touch, email oliviatakescourage@gmail.com -


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