Women encouraged to consider a career in Engineering
A key member of BT’s engineering team in Leicester says there is far more to the job than just greasy fingers and climbing up telegraph poles.
To mark National Women in Engineering Day, Seema Sharma, 42, from Leicester, is sharing her story in the hope it inspires other women to follow a similar career.
National Women in Engineering Day is an initiative that hopes to celebrate the work that women do in engineering, as well as showcasing the great engineering careers that are available for girls.
“I joined BT 26 years ago and just assumed I’d always be doing some sort of office job,” said Seema, now working on the Superfast Leicestershire project for Openreach, BT’s local network business. “But everything changed when I relocated to Leicester from London and ended up working in tactical planning, responsible for the equipment in telephone exchanges. That gave me my first real taste of engineering and I loved it.”
Seema joined BT in 1989 and worked as a clerical assistant in customer billing in London’s West End. “I had just finished school and Mum encouraged me to start applying for jobs. We had a friend who already worked for BT so I think that was a huge influence in where I ended up.”
After relocating to Leicester in 1991, Seema got her big break into engineering. “I was fortunate to have the support of colleagues within tactical planning who allowed me to provide cover for some of the engineering roles during holidays and busy periods. That experience was invaluable and was instrumental in my career changing direction from clerical to engineering focussed roles.”
During 2000, a job became available in BT’s property infrastructure team which involved planning the Openreach network, which is used by hundreds of telecoms companies offering phone and broadband services in the UK. By this time, I had received lots of on-the-job training and had formal qualifications under my belt in things like computer aided design,” remembers Seema. “This experience served me well and I was delighted when my application was successful. I stayed in that role for many years.”
Fast forward to 2015 and Seema is playing an important role, managing changes to the engineering rollout, as part of the BT team working on the Superfast Leicestershire project.
It was recently announced that the partnership with Leicestershire County Council has already made fibre broadband available to more than 37,000 homes and businesses across the county, and remains on course to make the new technology available to more than 72,000 properties by the end of 2018.
But what advice would Seema have for any women or girl thinking of following in her footsteps and choosing a career in engineering?
“The most important thing is to keep an open mind. BT is a great place to work and I have been very fortunate to have been encouraged every step of the way. Don’t restrict yourself into thinking one career path is the only one you can do. There are so many variations and so many different things you can get involved with.
“It’s also important to remember that engineering is not just about going up poles and down holes. All of that more visible type of work is brought together by a huge amount of planning and project management taking place in the background.
“Some of our engineers specialise in more office-based work, such as working out the best route for underground cables. Others might be working in a telephone exchange, planning or surveying the equipment that makes everything come together. It’s all engineering and it’s great to be at the forefront of new technology.”
National Women in Engineering Day was set up by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate its 95th anniversary. Find out more at www.nwed.org.uk.
For more information about the career opportunities at BT please visit www.btplc.com/careercentre.