Women in engineering: Christine Reid - tharsus

Women in engineering: Christine Reid

Christine's journey

By Kerry Patterson

Do you remember how and when you decided to become an engineer?

It sounds terrible but not really! I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision for me to become an engineer, I just always really liked maths and physics but wanted to use them for something real and practical so engineering was a natural progression.

Tell us about your career to date

Doing applied maths at school was the big breakthrough for me as that took all the theory I’d been taught for years and used it to solve real world problems.

On leaving school, I went to Durham University where I studied general engineering – that was the reason I chose that particular course since I didn’t actually know which bit of engineering I wanted to study! Having a basic knowledge of all disciplines has been really helpful in my career and helped me choose mechanical to focus on (I originally planned to do civil so very glad I had the experience across the board).

I graduated with a BEng then took a role with the company where I’d completed my two week industrial placement during my final year of study, a Gateshead firm that designs and manufactures metal decorating equipment.

I was there for five years in numerous different roles, from manufacturing engineer to design engineer and then head of the R&D department. I enjoyed my time with them, but there was a bit of uncertainty about the future brewing and I needed a new challenge so I decided to apply to Tharsus.

I still remember my first visit to Tharsus during the interview process and being blown away by the factory – it was a million miles away from the environment in my previous role and I could instantly tell there was a really good culture in the business.

Project management has developed during my time here, we are now much more involved in helping our customers navigate the product development journey. In just two years I’ve been involved in a number of really exciting and cutting edge projects and there has certainly never been a dull moment.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being involved in every part of the business. We get to look after the customer and the product from it being a rough prototype or even just an idea through to full production. That means that every day is different but there’s always a new challenge to tackle.

And the most challenging?

Same answer as above!

It can be a bit of a balancing act! But it’s what makes my role what it is, so I would never change it even though it gets tricky sometimes.

How do people react when you tell them you work in engineering?

Generally people are a bit surprised but always interested. They want to know how I got into it and what my job involves.

I definitely still think there is a perception that it is a very male dominated industry and while that is true (I regularly have meetings where I’m the only woman out of 15 people) there is much more acceptance and openness now.

Favourite tech-related TV show and why?

Definitely Robot Wars! I have a little Sir Killalot that sits on my desk!  I watched a lot of Scrapheap Challenge when I was younger as well. Everyone involved in both shows was always so enthusiastic and passionate about what they were doing and I think that got me more interested in engineering.

What advice do you have for women interested in engineering as a career?

There is absolutely nothing stopping you! And there is such a wide range of jobs in the engineering industry that there really is something to suit everyone.

However, I think the challenge is educating and enthusing girls and boys about engineering opportunities while they are still at school to try and break down the stereotypes around “male” and “female” jobs. Diversity in a workplace benefits everyone as the shared experiences and knowledge are wider and I think that has to be the ultimate goal.

If you’re considering a career in engineering Tharsus offers an excellent apprenticeship scheme and take on a new cohort of apprentices every year. For these and all other opportunities, visit the careers section of our website.

Kerry Patterson is Head of HR at Tharsus. Her team are experts at finding Tharsus people. They fit perfectly with our culture and values -and guided by them- deliver the exceptional every day.

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