The first in our Series of interviews celebrating International Women in Engineering Day featuring our female colleagues in engineering is with Sandie Jones, IAMA Field Service Engineer at ABB UK.
A huge thank you to Sandie for such an insightful and inspiring interview, so many interesting points made and for consideration to better support our female engineers in their work, right down to providing a female toilet on sites!
For anyone considering an engineering pathway, a great piece of advice from Sandie: “grasp all of the Education that you can that is on offer with both hands – the key to success is Education”.
What is your current job role?
My current role is as the Principal Field Service Engineer for ABB in Scotland, carrying out routine servicing and breakdowns on Continuous Water Analysers at Scottish Water - Water Treatment Works. I am totally responsible for coordinating my own work, scheduling, reacting to my customers needs, preparing quotes for contracts etc (Sales Account Managers finalise the fiscal areas)….
My role here in Scotland is completely unique within the business at this present time. I also have 3 customers not at Scottish Water where I carry out the same role as above on different products.
How did you get into your field of work? Did you follow a specific study path / apprenticeship route / training scheme? Or maybe it wasn’t planned?
Ha Ha – not planned at all! I was at Grammar School in the 60’s and very early 70’s in South Wales. My Father was a Miner, and up to when I was 15, my Mother was always at home. Our family didn’t go onto any further education at the time. My Father told me that I had to go to work, just like my siblings (I had 2 older and one younger sister) and share in the support of the household. The day after leaving school he put me into his Vauxhall Cresta – A car large enough to hold a family of 6! And took me to an Industrial Park in a place called Hirwaun.
Our FIRST factory was GEC General Electric Company. He just said “my daughter needs a job” and that was the start of my career! The first 2 weeks was spent at Soldering School! Then I worked as a Calibration Technician setting up Pre Amplifiers for GEC Radio and Stereo Systems. I was in this department because I had done well in the science subjects at school. Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology.
How long has this training taken?
All my education with regards to my work has been done at Night School – there was no internet or YouTube then. So, my training has taken all of my adult life and I continually learn on a daily basis. I began working for ABB as an Electronic Assembler on 2nd March 1978 – I still have the offer letter – The Company was then known as Kent Instrumentation Ltd, my salary was £59.34 per week! Where on earth they got the 34p from I don’t know.
Over the years, I held many different roles, Calibration Technician, Electronics Technician, Quality Control Technician, Senior Electronics Technician, Senior Supervisor, Feeder Unit Manager all eventually leading to a job in Service as a Support Engineer in 1995.
What or who inspired you to want to work in engineering?
As I said – I never had a clue as I was always geared to helping the household. My Father was someone I really looked up to, a completely self-taught man who could strip a car engine when he was 14 years of age. He absolutely loved that fact that I was successful in every job/promotion that I applied for and was very proud of me. So, Dad was my inspiration.
Tell me about the most exciting parts of your role?
This is a no brainer – working on Scottish Water sites takes me all over this beautiful and amazing country called Scotland. I have seen more of Scotland than most Scots. My area is from Shetland down to the Borders including most of the Islands. Islay, Mull, Western Isles – North and South Uist and Benbecula, Barra, Lewis and Harris. Orkney, which includes the Islands of Westray and Sanday, with a new addition this year of Stronsay - Imagine my day to work at Sanday, an early ferry to Sanday, carry out the work at Sanday WTW.
There is always time before the return ferry where I have explored the beaches, archaeology, Neolithic mounds. Then a late return Ferry and see the sunset, and all in a days work. I have had many many days like that and am so grateful that ABB has put their trust in me with this final role in my career. I ABSOLUTLEY LOVE my work.
The least exciting part is the continuous surprise that I have when female toilets are still not a priority, or even thought about in the 21st century for new builds. There are still areas of my work that are male dominated and challenging, but as the years pass, there seems to be more acceptance of women in Engineering.
Any thoughts on how to encourage more women into the Engineering Sector?
Raise the profile of Female Engineers, Work Experience to include spending time with Female Engineers (I love mentoring), Positive Discrimination where interviews are offered – though that might not be politically correct today. Job Descriptions to be worded in such a manner that it doesn’t have that male bias. Etc.
Best piece of advice for young women / girls who would like to explore engineering as a career opportunity?
Have faith in yourself and your abilities and most of all grasp all of the Education that you can that is on offer with both hands – the key to success is Education. Especially in the STEM subjects.
Click below to read the journey of other female engineers within the Electrical Industry: