By Annmarie Nicolson, design engineer at Dyson.
As a young girl, it never occurred to me that I would grow up to be an engineer. My real passion was art and design and I thought I might go into the jewellery or fashion industry. But when I started researching degrees, I came across Product Design – and knew straight away that was the path for me. The thought of creating objects that could make people’s lives a little bit better was exciting! I studied Product Design and Innovation at Strathclyde University, and spent a year at Mars Chocolate before joining Dyson as a design engineer. I work in the New Product Innovation (NPI) team, where I conceptualise and create new ideas.
On a day to day basis, I’m typically sketching out new product ideas and concepts, or solutions to existing problems. I’m constantly thinking about how things work, and how they could be better. There’s no right or wrong way to approach a problem, and that’s really liberating. The most exciting part of working in NPI is turning these 2D sketches into reality by creating visual – and working – prototypes. Using these prototypes to communicate how an idea might work or feel to use is satisfying – especially when I get to review the concepts with James Dyson.
There can be a perception that engineering is all about Maths and Physics – that it’s this cold, unfriendly, calculation-centred career. It’s enough to put anyone off, not just girls! But really, engineering is a wonderfully holistic blend of the technical and the creative. It’s all about putting theory into practice; a perfect job for anyone who likes making things.
I believe that we’ll only encourage more girls to become engineers by successfully communicating what being an engineer is really like. That’s why, whenever I can, I volunteer with the James Dyson Foundation – Dyson’s charity. Among lots of other initiatives, they go out to schools and run prototyping workshops, giving students an insight into the design process. It’s important work – and I’d like to think that meeting a real life, female engineer breaks down a few stereotypical views about what an engineer looks like.
Fellow female engineers: find ways to get out into schools and show young people that this fantastic career is not just for boys. It’s the only way things will change.