To mark International Women in Engineering Day 2017, we asked a number of our female engineers if they could turn back the clock, what would they tell their 16-year-old self.

  • You have a long life ahead of you; take your time to figure out what you love and what you believe in.
  • If you think you want something but then change your mind down the track, don’t be afraid to change your path and start all over again. You only waste more time agonising about wasted time.
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as you can! Meet new people, go to new places, try something you think is way outside of your capability. You’ll survive, you’ll learn and you’ll grow.

Melanie Louie, Sustainability Senior Engineer, Hong Kong

I would tell my 16 year old self to talk to more people about their personal life experiences. Now, having been through university and starting my first job, I have been subject to such a variety of culture and knowledge around me, that I would have loved to explore after finishing my GCSE’s. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had, appreciate what I have learnt and am excited to keep on learning. I am happiest when I am in a creative environment or doing something positive, and am now trying not to take the present for granted!

Ola Young, Structural Graduate Engineer, Manchester

You do not have to decide what your career is going to be at 16, 25, 40 or 60 years old, do what you love and don’t be scared to make changes as you change. Travelling is the best way to expand your mind, seeing other cultures, meeting people with different opinions to your own and being inspired by other ways of life. Finally, a smile costs nothing but adds lots of value.

Joanne Sim, Marketing Manager, Australia

If I could go back in time and give my 16-year-old self a message, it would be “don’t be afraid”. For more than half my life, I have been learning to be less scared, less worried about failing, less afraid of making myself look stupid. I am still learning to believe that I am worthy of success and that it is acceptable to make a mistake.

As students, we are taught to be afraid of failure – that is what motivates us to study hard for exams. As engineers, we are also afraid of failure, because the stakes are high and the consequences higher. But that should not lead us to be afraid of asking questions, making mistakes and learning new things. We shouldn’t be afraid of looking foolish for saying “I’m not sure – let’s investigate this further.”

As engineers, we have a unique dichotomy. We want a dependable, tried and tested design solution, but at the same time we want to push the boundaries of design, technology and architecture. We strive to marry art with science to create something wonderful.

The role of an engineer is not for the faint-hearted – courage and confidence are needed to achieve remarkable results, so there is no room for fear. So, I say to my 16-year-old self:

“Be bold, be brave, be curious, be wrong, but don’t be afraid”.

Emma Kent, Structural Associate, London

Two things I would say to my 16 year old self;

  • It is totally okay to be a nerd, always stay interested and curious! In fact, being like everyone else is so boring. It really doesn’t matter what it is you are interested in, when you really care about something, you are already half way there.
  • Do what makes YOU the happiest. This is something I still have to remind myself today. I find it so much easier to observe what others are doing and see what makes them happy, but often forget what it is that I really want. It is hard, but try not to listen to all the noise around you, and listen to yourself.

Stella Matulessya, ESD Consultant, Melbourne

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Emma Kent, Joanne Sim, Melanie Louie, Stella Matulessya, Women in Engineering

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