Challenging the sySTEM – Meet Charlotte

Meet Charlotte our Graduate System Engineer

We interviewed Charlotte – A system engineer currently on our Graduate Scheme about her time at Sellafield so far. Charlotte discussed how her interest in Engineering came about and her experiences on promoting STEM subjects to the younger generation. Charlotte joined the scheme in 2016 after completing her Chemical & Nuclear Engineering degree at the University of Leeds.

What is your role on the graduate scheme?

My first placement with Sellafield Ltd was within a department called the Innovation Centre, where a small team is tasked with designing and building a prototype to help overcome a challenge on a plant within 6 weeks.

In my current role as a system engineer I am responsible for looking after a system on plant. This can involve walking around the plant looking for any new or on-going issues, reviewing maintenance, producing modification proposals for some of the equipment and reviewing the overall ‘health’ of my system. I love the role I’m in because it enables me to get up and have a look at the plant I work on and learn how it all works without having to sit behind a desk all day.

Have you always been interested in pursing a career in Engineering?

Mostly – I knew from early secondary school I wanted to do something science-related and through careers advice at school settled on engineering in my GCSE years. My science teachers helped me see how widely engineering can be used and that it offers good job prospects. I also attended an engineering summer school for a week at the end of year 12 and that’s when I decided I wanted to do Chemical Engineering specifically, after doing workshops on different types of science and engineering.

How did you progress your passion for engineering after your left school?

Studied it at University! I was quite heavily involved with the Chemical Engineering Society as well as my studies, and took part in tours and talks from engineering companies. I also did a work placement in the summer of 2015 at Sellafield.

Do you think the industry could do more to inspire girls to become interested in STEM roles?

Honestly I think the support the industry already gives is great, more and more girls are becoming interested. When I was at university the amount of girls in the new intakes of my course increased yearly so it’s clearly becoming a more popular and an ‘acceptable’ choice for girls to do science and engineering. Most of my friends from school also went on to do scientific subjects at university as well.

Are you involved in any activities that promote STEM subjects to the younger generation?

I’m involved in STEM activities in my role at Sellafield Ltd – I’ve already been out to a couple of schools in the area to help run STEM activities for primary school children to get all of them – girls and boys – interested in STEM subjects and see them as fun. Hopefully myself and my other female colleagues give off the impression to young girls that if we are there running the science activities, one day they can do science and engineering too.

What do you think it takes to be successful on the graduate scheme?

You need to balance work and extra-curricular activities – getting involved in graduate activities such as STEM is really important for personal development, and really useful to the schools you support, but you also need to do your day job! In your job it’s also important to make notes of what you’re doing and how you are contributing to different projects and pieces of work – this will come in really useful when you’re thinking about going for Chartership, and during your appraisals (reviews) during your graduate scheme.

What initially attracted you to the Sellafield graduate scheme?

The main attraction for me was working within the Nuclear Industry – I’d been interested in nuclear physics since my A-Levels and doing Chemical and Nuclear Engineering at university made that interest even stronger. Sellafield itself has some really interesting work going on with some challenges unlike any other company within the UK or even in the world and it’s really exciting to get to work on projects and plants that help to overcome these challenges.

The area was also a draw for me. I enjoy the countryside, the North West is close enough to most of my family that I can easily visit them, and the cost of living and housing in West Cumbria is so cheap compared to other parts of the UK.

What would your advice be for girls who are interested in a career in STEM?

Do it no matter what other people say! I was always encouraged at school to do science subjects but I know that isn’t the case for all girls. Don’t let expectations that they’ll go and study ‘softer’ subjects get in the way of what they actually want to do.

You can register your interest for our 2018 Graduate Scheme by clicking here.

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