Glasgow sisters hang up on flipping burgers to become BT engineers

Three sisters from Glasgow are proving that engineering isn’t just for the boys, with all three joining BT as engineering apprentices.

Three sisters from Glasgow are proving that engineering isn’t just for the boys, with all three joining BT as engineering apprentices.

Nicola, 22, Laura, 24, and Katrina O’Donnell, 32, have all joined BT as apprentices, with Laura the most recent to join. The sisters all work in traditionally male roles, but have responded to BT’s drive to recruit more women into Science, Technology and Engineering (STEM) roles. Their work at BT is a far cry from their old jobs working for a well-known fast-food chain.

The most recent to join the company, Laura, left behind life as a club rep in Ayia Napa and now works as a combustion gas engineer for BT. She’s one of only three gas engineers who look after all of BT’s boilers across the whole of Scotland. Travelling to remote telephone exchanges in rural Scotland is unrecognisable from the beach resorts in Cyprus she used to work in.

Laura said: “I was inspired to join BT by my sisters who really enjoy their jobs and have had lots of opportunities to grow and develop their careers. I’d met lots of good people when I did work experience with Openreach and felt like it would be a welcoming place. I’ve travelled all round the country to places I’d not even heard of before.

”I get some strange looks from male colleagues sometimes. One even assumed I was the cleaner and asked me to empty the bins. He looked a bit embarrassed when I told him I was the gas engineer.”

The eldest of the three sisters, Katrina, joined Openreach in 2001 as an apprentice telecoms engineer within Openreach, BT’s local network business. Katrina was one of the first female engineers to join her team in Glasgow. At the time, most telephone exchanges didn’t even have female toilets, something that’s long since changed.

Katrina now manages a team of 22 male engineers who install and repair phone, broadband and TV services. She says she gets respect and support from male colleagues: “Everyone’s been really supportive since I joined Openreach. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to try new things; it’s a huge company. I’ve even gained a business management degree from Glasgow Caledonian University with support from Openreach. It’s great that we all work for BT now, though not all together, that might confuse everyone.”

Following Katrina into the family business was Nicola, who joined BT as an apprentice in 2013 and now works as a fibre planner for Openreach, helping to plan new superfast broadband networks around the UK.

She said: “I can’t believe we’ve all ended up working at BT. I’d say to any women thinking about a career in engineering, go for it, you’ve got nothing to lose. We’re one big engineering family, my Dad’s a heating engineer and my brother’s an electrical engineer, there must be something in the blood.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “It’s fantastic that these three sisters have all inspired each other to take on engineering roles in BT. Our people are at the heart of Scottish communities, keeping the nation connected, so it’s important for our customers that our staff represent the rich diversity of Scotland.

“Whether it’s upgrading a customer to fibre broadband or setting up a customer’s brand new TV service, providing a great customer experience is our number one priority. Our apprentices bring fresh ideas to their teams and many go on to have rewarding careers in the company.”

BT employs more than 7,000 people in Scotland and Openreach has recruited more than 220 engineers and apprentices this year. The latest job opportunities can be viewed at www.bt.com/careers


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