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International Women in Engineering Day - an interview with Mechanical Engineer Armna Iqbal.

This year, to support International Women in Engineering Day on the 23rd June, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Mechanical Engineer Armna Iqbal. Armna is a professional engineering graduate with an ambitious drive to continuously develop her career within the engineering industry. Prior the interview, I was intrigued to find out further details about Armna’s inspiring career progression. Below, Armna shared with me her achievements, experiences and challenges she has faced throughout her career so far.

How old were you when you decided you wanted to become an engineer?
I cannot specify a decisive age, I have always been inclined to subjects that required logic, and I knew that I wanted a career that required the application of logic. For the most part, I let the subjects that were my passions pave my career choice. 

What inspired you to get into engineering?
I was always curious to find out how things worked, and enjoyed making and fixing personal projects. My father was also a mechanic, and understanding the workings of a car was something I had learned from him. To best define this question, there is a Russian acronym TRIZ that loosely translates to: ‘Theory of Inventive Problem Solving’, I think this best summarizes engineering, and it is the problem solving nature of this industry that is most appealing. 

There are a number of different routes you can take into a career in engineering. What route did you take, and why?
I studied for my GCSE’s, followed by my A-levels and then went on to university where I studied a BEng in Mechanical Engineering. I lean toward academia, and therefore, this would have always been the route into engineering for someone like myself. 

I noticed you studied MS Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering at University of Hertfordshire – what made you want to study these subjects?
I weirdly enjoy studying; I always want to learn new things. Computer science has its attractions because I believe its very much part of the future of technology, understanding languages is important. I also believe that being capable of understanding and implementing more than one discipline makes you a more versatile employee/candidate. 

Tell me about your job in a little more detail, what do you do?
I currently work for Bilfinger Automation as a Systems Engineer. We are working for Thames Water to replace obsolete outstations. Primarily, I work on the SCADA side, which includes configuring, testing and commissioning the sites. 

What does an average day look like for you?
The majority of my day is spent on SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) – in order for the old outstation to be replaced, the new site requires configuring and quality checking. If it is a day where I am commissioning, I will be communicating to the site team, working back and forth with them while they install the RTU, and upon the completion of this begin testing the newly installed RTU. 

What are your favourite parts of your job?
The problem solving based nature of the job is the most appealing, plus the fact that this for the most part was out of my discipline, so it has been a chance to learn something new. Understanding the relationship between the outstation and the master station are all interesting aspects of the job. 

And the worst parts?
I don’t think there are any worst parts, per se. I believe that there are difficulties regardless of the job your have and the field that you are in. I think that the only slightly difficult part of this industry is that engineering is a male dominant field, so sometimes as a women you can struggle to reach the same level/status as men, but with only two years of experience in the field, I don’t think I can entirely comment on that. 

How important was studying maths and physics in college for what you do now?
For me, the two subjects were massively important. I thoroughly enjoyed studying both. The two fundamentally required logical thinking and were calculation heavy. The importance of these subjects at A-level was stressed at university level, as much of the modules build upon this fundamental knowledge. 

What do you like most about engineering?
The logical, problem solving based nature of the field.

What’s the most challenging thing about being an engineer?
I think at times it can be intellectually challenging, learning new content and applying that can be challenging.  

What personal qualities are important for being an engineer?
Personally, I think it is important to be level headed and rational at all times, but then I would say that would apply to all job roles, regardless of industry. 

What’s been your proudest achievement so far?
I think achieving my 1st in Mechanical Engineering at university was definitely my proudest achievement so far; the time and effort put in were well worth while.

What do you do outside of work?
I massively enjoy both playing and watching sport. As far as playing goes, I enjoy running and participating in 5k’s, I also really enjoy team sports such as football. For watching, I will watch any sport, but I am particularly dedicated to F1 (due to its link with engineering) and NBA. I also spend much of my time outdoors, hiking and walking and enjoy non-fiction books. Outside of that, I enjoy socialising with both friends and family – the normal stuff.

Finally, there are fewer women working in engineering than men - what would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
I wouldn’t let that thought or ideology taint my perception of engineering. Yes, it is a male dominant field, but it can also be massively rewarding, plus, if it’s doing work that you enjoy then it shouldn’t matter. I would absolutely recommend women to go for a career in engineering.

Are you an engineer looking for a new role or thinking about getting into the industry and need some advice? 

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