International Women In Engineering Day – Interview with Neesha Paul

While female representation within STEM fields is constantly growing, women are still hugely under-represented, with 2021 figures indicating that in the UK only 16.5% of engineers are women! So, in celebration of International Women in Engineering Day, we had the pleasure of interviewing a member of our own team, Neesha Paul, an Electro Mechanical Assembly & Test Engineer here at PCS.

She shared her experiences in engineering, and talked about the unique challenges and opportunities she encounters in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Read on for insights and advice on thriving in engineering as a woman!

  • PCS: Hi Neesha, could you walk us through a typical day for you? What are some of the tasks you handle regularly?  

Neesha: A typical day as an assembly and test engineer involves making sure instruments (customer orders) are put together correctly and according to specifications. I also conduct various tests to validate the functionality and performance of the assembled rigs. This includes setting up test equipment, running tests, analysing the data, and identifying any issues or defects that need to be addressed.

Repairing customer rigs when they come back can require extensive fault finding. Fault finding could be a variation of simple solutions or coming across complex encounters. Additionally, I may collaborate with other teams, such as R&D to improve processes or to build initial testing rigs for production. Documentation of test procedures and results is also a key part of my daily tasks!

  • PCS: What would you say are some of the most challenging aspects of your job, and how do you address these challenges?

Neesha: One of the challenging aspects of my job would be troubleshooting complex issues that emerge during the assembly or testing process. To overcome these hurdles, I depend on my technical ability and problem-solving abilities to methodically pinpoint and resolve the underlying causes.

This frequently means partnering with fellow engineers and cross-functional teams to apply their knowledge and skills. I also prioritise continuous training and professional growth to remain good at effectively tackling these challenges.

  • PCS: In your experience, what are some of the barriers that women face in engineering, and what steps do you think could be taken to overcome them?

Neesha: In my experience from studying in a male predominant field, being one of two girls in a class of 30, to now being one of two female engineers working in a male predominant production department. I’ve observed, women in engineering often encounter obstacles such as gender bias, limited representation, and unconscious biases at work.

To overcome these limitations, it’s important to introduce diversity, and raising a more supportive atmosphere for female engineers. Alongside initiatives like mentorship programs, ensuring equal pathways for career growth, and encouraging policies promoting work-life balance are fundamental steps toward encouraging more women to enter and pursue a career in engineering.

  • PCS: Are there any female role models or mentors who have influenced your career? How have they shaped your approach to your engineering?

Neesha: Sounds cheesy but my female role model would have to be my mum! Balancing the responsibilities of raising two kids as a single mother while managing two jobs and maintaining our home to high standards, she instilled in me the belief that with determination, anything is achievable. From an early age, she taught lessons of confidence, independence, and perseverance, never accepting defeat and always pushing forward.

Growing up in an era where societal expectations for women were limited, she defied norms, asserting her independence, and encouraging her daughters to break free from traditional roles. Her resilience and determination influenced my approach to engineering, showing me that it’s a field open to all, regardless of gender.

As the matriarch of our household, she effortlessly took on tasks typically labelled as “men’s work,” inspiring me with her ability to tackle everything from minor repairs to the intricate workings of household items.

Even something as simple as changing a light bulb would fascinate me. Her curiosity sparked my own, leading me to take apart and explore the inner workings of objects, raising my passion for understanding and problem-solving. I guess this shaped my approach to engineering as it’s just not a male predominant field, women can do it too!

  • PCS: What advice would you give to young women who are considering a career in electro-mechanical engineering?

Neesha: For young women considering a career in electro-mechanical engineering, I suggest pursuing your passion bravely. Refuse to be hindered by stereotypes or societal norms. Seek out mentors and role models who can offer guidance and encouragement throughout your path.

Prioritise improving your technical expertise while also nurturing effective communication and problem-solving skills. View challenges as chances for personal development, and always have confidence in your capabilities.

  • PCS: Can you discuss a project you’ve worked on that you found particularly impactful or fulfilling?

Neesha: Something away from the engineering side and chose to grow my hair out to donate it to the Little Princess Trust, an organisation aiding children and young adults battling cancer by providing them with natural-looking wigs. No one should have their future defined by such a terrible illness at that age.

With the support of a fundraiser and generous donors, we raised over £1400. I was able to contribute around 16 inches of hair. Though it may seem small, I hope it can make a big difference in restoring someone’s confidence and enabling them to pursue their dreams without hesitation.

  • PCS: How do you think the engineering sector can improve when it comes to diversity and inclusion, especially in technical roles like yours?

Neesha: To improve diversity and inclusion in the engineering sector, particularly in technical roles like mine, companies should actively recruit and maintain diverse talent through inclusive hiring and encouraging supportive work environments where everyone feels valued and respected. This requires addressing unconscious biases and ensuring equal opportunities for career growth.

Promoting diversity in leadership roles and establishing mentorship programs can raise a more inclusive culture, providing guidance and support for underrepresented groups such as women and minorities in technical positions. Offering training on diversity and inclusion topics for all staff members can enhance awareness and foster empathy.

Thanks again to Neesha for sitting down with us, and sharing her insights and experiences. Her story highlights the importance of diversity in engineering, especially as we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day. Let’s continue to support and advocate for women in STEM fields, and inspire more young women to join and thrive in engineering!

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