Sharon's Story: Celebrating International Women in Engineering

Sharon's Story: Celebrating International Women in Engineering

We hope you enjoy this weeks interview with Sharon Incerti, Cable Development Project Manager at WSP, a lady who pushed for what she wanted right from the start of her career during a very different looking industry in the UK during the 1980s.

Sharon relishes the mentorship she can give others to achieve their full potential and after interviewing Linsey for last weeks spotlight, the warmth and appreciation for her Industry career mentor Sharon was so apparent. A big thank you to Sharon for such a great message and words of advice.

What is your current job role? 

Cable Project Development Manager
I have been a Manager in many roles during my career including Project, Operations & Programme Managers. I have always preferred the “front end” or development of a project. When you receive a project where new electricity circuits are required or existing require replacing its always a challenge to identify the route where the cables are to be installed and understand what licences or considerations are required.  The delivery phase is less of a buzz.

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?

I started work at East Midlands Electricity in the Energy Sales Team in an admin role and worked with teams dealing with new supplies and upgrades, information to Commercial and Industrial premises, Schools and street lighting. The District Manager saw something in me that I did not identify, I was a good communicator, negotiator and organiser.

How long has this training taken? 

Continuous training on the job.…. “I tell people my experience is a Diploma in Life and People!”

What or who inspired you to want to work in engineering?

Working in Admin in an Engineering team switched me onto a love of the Engineering environment. I applied for a role in the Energy Sales Team looking after Builders and Developers and a passion was born. As a female in the early 80’s there was M/F discrimination and before I was offered the role, the manager of the team called a few major builders of the time and asked “Would you be ok if I employed a woman in this role” Something that should not happen today.

Fortunately, all responded that as long as I did the role as well as, it would be fine. Arrogantly, I said I would do it better, folly of youth with something to prove!! In 1990 I was awarded the Electricity Association Sales Person of the year in the Builders and Developers category competing against other DNO (Distribution Network Operators or then Electricity Companies)

Tell me about the most exciting parts of your role?

The joy of picking up a file and take the project to the point of delivery. I still keep working on the project together with the Project Delivery Engineer. My latest project is a £30million refurbishment project over two phases and four years from start to completion. I have developed and delivered Phase One whilst phase Two has been in development. Phase Two is due to start on site in September 2020.

When in a management role, to identify a person who has not reached their full potential and help them achieve as a mentor, there is no better feeling.

Any thoughts on how to encourage more women into the Engineering Sector?

More women are moving into the Engineering arena, just not quick enough as the option is normally overlooked. Engineering as a career must start at schools or after school activity clubs. I recently worked in a mixed after schools club with children from 6 to 12 and with a game called EZLink a science kit for circuit experiments and they were blown away with interest. I was amazed how quick they took to the game and instructions and the young girls were on fire. We had a chat afterwards about Engineering and the different types, something not all was aware of. It was a really good few hours and left you feeling warm. Introducing STEM on all curriculums is a start, including in all girls schools. 

Best piece of advice for young women / girls who would like to explore engineering as a career opportunity?

Call their local Electricity Company. Electricity companies have a team that specialise in talking to schools on many topics relating to Engineering, including safety.

Guest speakers will also arrive if a specific area of interest is shown. Most companies are happy that there is an interest in their chosen professional field and most employees happy to turn up and explain what they do and how they do it. We can all go on well past our allocated time as passion sets in! Career advisors and teachers at schools will support a request for more info. 

At my career interview I was asked, what did I want to do, I said "a motor mechanic" and was told, "Don’t be stupid, you’re a girl!".

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