Hear from our Inspiring Females: Part 1 Sophie Laidlaw
With three of our female colleagues across the Group shortlisted for prestigious North- East Chamber of Commerce Inspiring Females Awards, we’ll be catching up with all three over the coming weeks to hear about who inspires them, and how as inspiring females themselves, who they may want to inspire and why. We start with Sophie Laidlaw, Electro- Mechanical Engineering Apprentice at Tharsus.
Sophie is developing technology for the global aerospace, agritech and logistics sectors, among others. As well as being shortlisted for an Inspiring Female Award, she is also a national finalist in Make UK’s Rising Star Awards.
Sophie picks up the story on how a career in engineering effectively came to her rescue:
“After various jobs in retail and property management, I was thoroughly bored of offices and decided to pursue a career doing something which really interested me. Taking things apart to see how they work has been a compulsive hobby since childhood, so engineering seemed like a good way to make a career out of it… As a bonus I would also learn how to put all those broken things back together again!
“I’ve also always been interested in and inspired by the power of engineering and technology to have a really big, broad impact. A personal heroine is British engineer Beatrice Shilling. In the early days of WW2 she realised that a modification to the fuelling systems of RAF fighter aircraft would give them superior performance over their German counterparts. The modification went on to play a key part in our winning the Battle of Britain. That’s what I mean by broad impact. The World would be a very different place today if it hadn’t been for her idea.
Why did you choose Tharsus?
“Tharsus is driven by a strong belief in the power of engineering and technology to solve the World’s most pressing problems. We call it creating tech that matters. Taking climate change as one example, Tharsus is working, with global businesses within the aerospace, logistics and electrification sectors on solutions to address it.
“For me, I just had to be part of it. And three years on, nearing the end of my apprenticeship, I’m proud that technology and products I’m helping to develop are active all over the world playing a real part in tackling climate change. That’s a real buzz.
Any other inspirations?
“I’ve met some amazing people on my engineering journey so far – for example – Mel Stewart over at our sister business Universal Wolf is one. When you consider females in engineering are thin on the ground now, imagine what it was like 20 or so years ago when Mel started her career. She told me that in those days, one of the most common reasons given for why she hadn’t been offered a job she’d applied for was, there were no ladies toilets! Sticking with a career choice against that sort of backdrop takes real guts and perseverance. Today she’s using her welding and fabrication skills to lead on standards and training requirements for Universal Wolf, keeping them front of the pack in their sector. In my view, she’s a far more deserving front runner then me for an NECC Inspiring Female award. She’s also a fount of very funny stories about life as one of the only few female welders in the country. She’s next to be featured. DM her (on Linkedin) and I’m sure she’ll share some!
You’ve been inspired. Now you’re inspirational in your own right. Who do you want to inspire?
“The CEO of Apple recently said of gender imbalance in his own sector, that technology will not achieve nearly what it could achieve without a more diverse workforce. It’s a very good point and echoes the call to arms aimed at myself and this region’s women, which I delivered during a talk I was honoured to give at this year’s NEECC Inspiring Females Annual Conference. I’ll share it with you:
“Some of the biggest and most important companies in the world are choosing to work with engineering and fabrication businesses in this region. This isn’t by accident. It’s because they get the passion, the talent, the quality of our work, which enables them to deliver and succeed in their markets. In this region, we’re staring at an open door to be the global leader in advanced manufacturing and engineering. And yet we’re held back because we haven’t enough people to do it. That’s because 50% the people who could and should do it aren’t being given enough information on the sheer range of career possibilities open to them. Instead, they’re being encouraged into traditionally “female” professions e.g.e.g., hairdressing. Together in this room we’re probably the most determined women in this region. How can we work together to show the fulfilling careers available in engineering and tech, and How can we work together to get our girls and women into careers jobs where they can make things which change the world?”
In our next instalment we’ll hear from Melanie Stewart, Welding and Fabrication Lead at Universal Wolf on inspiration, national sector recognition (in motorway service stations usually) and why a career in her field is must for the creatively- minded.