Shelley Pike, Systems Sales Manager, Rotork Controls
What is your current job?
While my role is in sales, my team and I are really 'technical support' for our customers. Rotork makes valve actuators, the valves are used in industries like water treatment, power, oil and gas. My team supports the part of the device that enables it to be operated by remote control. Most of the time my work is office based, but the team also works on site helping to troubleshoot issues or assist customers in the use of our products.† I moved to this role after 12 years in the electronics department, being a senior engineer for some of that time. Most of the time my work is office based, but the team also work on site helping to troubleshoot issues or assist customers in the use of our products. I moved to this role after 12 years in the electronics department, being a senior engineer for some of that time.
What do you love about your job?
I love the variety - assisting with specification writing for new products, international travel, testing site issues in our workshop or supporting our service team and customers. We have to be aware of the latest technologies in the field and there is always scope to learn something new. The company is innovative and a market leader in its field. I enjoy the challenge of having team of three working for me. Although I have moved away from designing products, the role is still linked to the engineering department, so I still get involved with new design. I talk to customers about what they want and need from our products and feed that into the design process.
Why did you choose a job in engineering?
I have always been interested in taking things apart and learning how they work and I used to help my Dad work on cars. I still enjoy racing and maintaining motorbikes. I enjoyed maths, physics and design & technology at school so when I left at 16 I applied for an engineering apprenticeship. That meant I could carry on with my education at Bath College and be doing real work at Rotork at the same time. The apprenticeship was a four-year course with time to learn about all aspects of Rotork, from building devices on the shop floor and engineering design, to purchasing and sales. When my apprenticeship ended, Rotork supported me through a full time Electronic Engineering course at university and then I returned to work in the electronics department.
What skills and qualities do you need?
Problem solving skills have been really useful when working with customers. Good communication skills are needed to get your point across, to keep clear notes and to write reports.
Be a team player - you may be working alone on a part of a project, but you will need to come together as a group to make sure your part of the project works with everyone else.
You need to focus on a task, but also be able to multi-task as you may have several projects on the go at any given time. Being confident in your own ability is important and not being afraid to ask questions as you may need to go back to the basics to fully understand something. Being open minded to other peoples? ideas and suggestions helps: discussing a wacky idea may result in a good engineering solution.
What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering?
Engineering is a very fulfilling career, there is nothing more satisfying that creating something that does something! There is plenty of variety in engineering. If you ask someone what they do they will very rarely say I am an engineer, they will tell you what type: software, civil, electronics, hardware or mechanical. One discipline may not suit you, but there'?s bound to be one that does.
Be persistent and stick to what you want. There are always obstacles to what you want in life, but there'?s usually a way round them!
What can people do at school to help prepare them for a career in engineering?
Work experience was a really useful week for me and I have to admit to being really lucky in having a teacher who encouraged my engineering aspirations - my German teacher, whose husband was an engineer.
It would be useful to speak to people from industry and find out about what different types of engineering disciplines mean and what work is involved in them. It's not true that all engineering is dirty and oily - there are some of us who like to take motorbikes apart and get oily, but there are many engineers who don't. There's an engineering discipline for all types of people!
An apprenticeship is a fantastic way to start an engineering career. There are many different disciplines in engineering; find the one that fits you. Work experience is great to give you an idea of what engineering is about, but don't pick a firm that does heavy engineering if you are not interested in that! Having an engineering background is also a bonus if your longer term plans are outside engineering. Many of the sales staff at Rotork have engineering qualifications: sales people cannot sell something well if they do not understand a product!