Meet Ciara Flanagan – Electrical and Instrumentation Apprentice at Atlantach Technical Services

Ciara speaks to us about her experience as a female engineer in industry, why she chose E&I as a career and her advice to women who are interested in pursuing a career in Engineering.

Why did you decide to do an Electrical and Instrumentation Apprenticeship?
My biggest goal was to do an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is the best way for a young person like myself to learn on the job and have a hands on approach within a company. You will be trained and prepared for a specific job role, learn the skills that are required for the job and gain qualifications. I decided to do an Electrical Instrumentation apprenticeship because I believe it is the most rewarding career. The role is to perform the installation, repairs, and maintenance of a variety of control systems and equipment. Finding the problem with a defective system and taking the appropriate measures to fix it is also part of the role and is my favourite part of the job. Understanding the working of certain equipment and systems is something you need in this job, so you are able to use logic and problem-solving skills to resolve whatever the issue may be. The learning in this job is what interests me the most. There is never a day where I don’t learn something new.

How do you feel working in a male dominated industry?
I have only one feeling about working in a male dominated industry, and it’s that I am just as good and capable as anyone else here. I can do the same tasks as men can do and I can be just as successful as any man working here. I have faced some challenges in previous workplaces such as verbal abuse, comments about where I as a woman should or shouldn’t be working and so on. I am
not afraid to speak up and defend myself as I won’t tolerate being spoken to disrespectfully. Working alongside many male colleagues in Atlantach, I have never experienced inappropriate comments or behaviour and I’m glad that this is now the norm rather than maybe what previous female engineers experienced in the past. My teammates in Atlantach are some of the most
respectful, helpful, and friendly people I have met. I enjoy coming to work every day because I know I am treated the same as everyone else.

What skills do you think companies benefit from having female engineers on the team?
I think companies should prioritise hiring women to be part of their team because women bring new perspectives to the table. Female engineers think of solutions or ideas from a different perspective. This can lead to greater performances and innovation. I also think that hiring more women will provide role models for young girls and women who are considering a career in engineering.

Why do you think more women are not selecting engineering as a career?
I personally feel that the gender stereotype has a lot to do with why women are not selecting engineering as a career. Engineering has always been seen as a male dominated job, and I think many women feel intimidated by that. However, since I have entered the industry I am delighted to see that the number of women in engineering is greater than I initially thought and I’m inspired to see women in senior engineering and leadership roles.

What do you like about working with Atlantach?
The only way I can describe working at Atlantach is like having a second family. Everyone is so friendly and helpful towards each other and everyone has a good sense of humour. I don’t feel intimidated by anybody or afraid to ask questions. Anytime I am confused or don’t understand something that is going on, they will all try their best and go out of their way to help me and explain
to me whatever it is I am struggling with. They go above and beyond to help me learn everything that I can in my apprenticeship and also make it the best working environment.

What can companies do to attract more females into engineering?
In order for companies to attract more females into engineering they should have a concentrated focus on creating awareness and the promotion of the career opportunities available to engineers through career guidance in secondary schools and outreach programmes with the emphasis on females in engineering. Companies could consider dedicated female recruitment programmes and work with colleges to offer female engineering students dedicated work placements. As most engineering students start their journey in college and may not get a feel for the hands-on experience. I think by supporting female engineering groups in colleges will make females more confident and feel they have a critical role to play in industry.

Anything else you would like to add?
For any female reading this, I hope it can be an inspiration for you to pursue a career in Engineering. There is always going to be challenges in any career you choose. Don’t let a male dominated industry stop you, it didn’t stop me.