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Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day; a Head of System Integration’s perspective

International Women in Engineering Day, this year on the 23rd June 2017, is an annual celebration of the fantastic impact that women make to engineering internationally.  It aims to recognise the women already working in the industry, and showcase the opportunities to future generations.

In support of this important day, Marine People and the IMarEST will be showcasing amazing international female engineers in our weekly blog.  We want to demonstrate the diverse roles available within engineering, the career development opportunities, and provide some insight in to what it is like to be a female engineer in various parts of the world.  We are passionate about showcasing the fabulous opportunities to women in maritime engineering, because we believe it is an exciting, varied and progressive career.

So, let us introduce this weeks featured engineer:

Emma Harrison, Head of Systems Integration, at Energy Systems Catapult in the UK.

  • How long have you been in engineering and what is your role?

I’ve been in engineering now for 30 years and I am currently the Head of Systems Integration for Energy Systems Catapult. The Energy Systems Catapult is supporting British Industry to unleash innovation and exploit the opportunities of the global energy revolution. Our vision is for a clean, intelligent, energy system that works for people, communities and businesses.

  • Why did you become an engineer?

I wanted to understand how things work, and apply this to create useful and interesting things to make peoples lives better.

  • What are the best parts of your role?

The ability to make a difference and improve peoples lives, whilst doing interesting and challenging things and solving different problems. The pride when you see the successful completion of a power plant, ship, plane, virtual reality simulator, low cost water purifier, or computer to transform the lives of communities in the UK and around the world.

  • What challenges have you encountered?

Apart from the obvious challenges facing all engineers, i.e. solving difficult problems, being a female engineer does pose additional challenges. This includes explaining why you are an engineer and how can you do a ‘mans job’. I also had to get used to often being the only woman in my team, in meetings, in conferences etc. An additional challenge was developing a suitable management style, to manage all male departments in traditional engineering companies.

  • Why is it important to get more women in to engineering?

Engineering requires creativity, the ability to think outside of the box, being able to explore different options with an open mind, combined with great organisational and management skills, often multitasking and trading off between conflicting requirements. Women engineers bring these skills and greatly improve the performance of engineering and management teams.

  • What would you say to girls still in school who are thinking about engineering? How would you encourage them?

I would tell them to pursue their dreams, and not to let prejudices stop them from fulfilling their potential. Engineering is an illustrious career and girls are very good at it.

  • What advice do you have for students just starting out?

Work hard and have fun, keep an open mind about your future career and look forward to a lifetime of making a difference and improving peoples lives.

For more information on International Women in Engineering Day please visit