To celebrate Women in Engineering Day 2020, we sat down with McCann & Partners Mechanical Engineer Victoria Boreham-Payne to talk about her experiences in the industry and the advice she'd give other women wanting to work in the field of engineering.
Hi Victoria. When can you first remember wanting to work in engineering?
I think my interest in engineering started early on; I was the kind of girl that would play with Lego, RC cars, or just take things apart and put them back together again. I knew I enjoyed science and maths at a young age and just continued to pursue them! I only really discovered engineering when it came to picking a degree to study after college. I spent a long time scrolling through the different degrees and the only thing that really jumped out at me was engineering – so I just took a leap of faith really, and so far, it has paid off!
And what made you want to go into mechanical engineering specifically?
When I was choosing my degree, to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do for work, so I picked mechanical engineering for its versatility and employability. A degree in engineering opens a lot of doors career-wise, and mechanical engineering was applicable to a lot of different engineering jobs which meant I could decide later down the line what I wanted to specialise in.
How would you like to see the engineering, or even the wider construction industry, making positive strides in the years to come?
I’d like to see a concerted effort on sustainability and green design across the industry. A lot of the tools and technology is already available and out there, but it’s a case of using our influence as engineers to guide future developments in a direction that is beneficial to our world, and not causing more harm. Whether it is something like ordering supplies from a local supplier to avoid having them shipped across the country (or world where possible), or simply including some solar panels, each little action will help in the grand scheme of things.
Tell us what your day to day involves and what parts of your role you enjoy the most?
My day to day involves mostly designing HVAC systems and thermal modelling, and honestly, a large part of my day is learning - I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t learn something new!
I think my favourite part is building on my base knowledge around the industry and appreciating the effort and time that goes into designing a building. Walking through a construction now I can appreciate the level of detail, thought, and design that went into it that I perhaps would have missed before.
How important is it for more women to be encouraged into the engineering and building services industries?
Very important! Having been through university and a couple of jobs, the disparity in numbers for males vs. females in engineering has become so apparent.
I remember after deciding to study engineering, whenever I revealed my choice to someone new, 70% of the time they would reply with “Are you sure? It’s very difficult”, which understandably left doubts in my mind about whether I could actually do it.
It’s definitely intimidating entering a career that is so male-dominated, and I would love to see that change over the years to come.
And lastly, what advice would you give to other women out there that want to get into the field?
Engineering is a difficult and challenging field, and it takes a lot of hard work and commitment, but along with that comes a lot of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. If you like problem-solving and challenging your brain, then it will definitely satisfy both of those cravings! If you are still in school or college, my advice is to focus on maths and science as these will have the most useful background information when heading down the engineering route, and it will also give you an idea early on if they are the subjects you actually enjoy.
Most importantly don’t let anyone discourage you or put doubts in your mind about whether you can do it! Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.