In order to celebrate International Women In Engineering Day, earlier this year, I reached out to a number of female engineers across the UK & Ireland, asking them to share their stories, and the highly rewarding career path they had chosen.
Hear the thoughts of Catherine Anderton, Project Manager at Schneider Electric, about what it’s like to be a female in the world of engineering, what it’s like to work at Schneider Electric and how Schneider has contributed to her journey.
Siobhan Kelly-Bush: Catherine, please tell us what is it like to work at Schneider Electric?
Catherine Anderton: Working for Schneider as a Project Manager is varied and can comprise of working in the office, working from home, attending both internal and external meetings, carrying out site surveys & progress reports, carrying out design work, day to day problem solving ordering equipment & services, and tracking jobs for programme and costs. The work is challenging, diverse and rewarding, especially when you see through a project from start to finish.
SKB: When and why did you decide to become an engineer?
CA: My father was an electrical engineer so both my parents actively encouraged me to take up engineering. I also did a work experience placement when at school at an NHS training college and they expressed that I had the right attributes for becoming an engineer, this is when I seriously considered a career in engineering and started applying for jobs, apprenticeships and training schemes. This was quite rare in the 1980’s for women to apply for engineering jobs and I was often the only female at the interview/on the college course.
“This was quite rare in the 1980’s for women to apply for engineering jobs and I was often the only female at the interview/on the college course.”
SKB: Why Schneider Electric?
CA: I have always found the people to be hardworking, honest, reliable and fun to work with, which is important for me. Plus, Schneider is a global company which provides many varied career opportunities and a good benefits package too
SKB: How has Schneider Electric supported your career?
CA: Schneider has supported me through various stages of my career with varied training experiences and provided me with mentors whom I have learnt a lot from to help me develop my career.
SKB: What has been your career path up to today?
CA: I started out with a small control panel specialist working on HVAC schemes and this comprised of a work placement plus carrying out an ONC/HNC college course via day release. I joined Satchwell Control Systems Ltd part way through the second college course as a trainee, which gave me the opportunity to train on the job and also continue with my HNC at college. I then had a break from working and returned to full time education to study for an engineering degree in building services. After graduation I had a short time working at Cranfield University Estates department, but then returned to Satchwell Controls which was bought out by a number of companies, finally becoming part of Schneider Electric. I have progressed my career path with Schneider and currently work as a Project Manager for the end user project team in the Midlands and South West
SKB: How has the flexibility across Schneider enabled you to explore a range of career choices and opportunities across different areas?
CA: I found Schneider to be flexible when I had my children and decided to come back to work afterwards, giving me flexibility to work reduced hours and work from home when needed. My family routes are in the South West of England so I’ve been happy to continue to develop my Project Management skills here, but several colleagues have moved to work in Australia for Schneider Electric.
“Schneider helped me when I had my children and decided to come back to work afterwards, giving me flexibility to work reduced hours & work from home when needed.”
SKB: What has been your most rewarding experience as an engineer?
CA: Helping to teach others within the business unit my skills on project Management and working as part of a team. Another example is when I was based full time at Bristol Airport for nine months heading up a project for them which I found really interesting and rewarding.
SKB: What has been your most challenging experience as an engineer?
CA: Initially, perhaps, some skepticism from a few old school customers in the early days (as women were very rare in engineering) but nothing that couldn’t be resolved by good project management skills to win them over! Then probably when my children were very young and myself and my husband had to juggle our work and childcare; it was always especially difficult when they were ill! This, at times, wasn’t easy but we always got through it with good team work.
SKB: What advice do you have for females interested in becoming an engineer?
CA: Go for it! There is a vast array of engineering skills/jobs available offering varied roles and job opportunities. But be prepared to work hard to reap your rewards.
SKB: Who has been your greatest support, coach, mentor across Schneider Electric and why?
CA: I think I would have to mention a few….my ex colleague Jon Jones, plus Gerald Bodman, Andy Bartlett and Mike Graveson (who retired from Schneider this year). They have all taught me so much!
Thank you to Catherine for sharing her insights on what it’s like to be a female in the world of engineering, and Schneider Electric.
This blog post is part of a series. I invite you to read the other interviews below:
- International Women in Engineering Day: an Interview with Yasemin Borg
- International Women in Engineering Day: an Interview with Antonia Lamballe
- An interview with Eszter Kortvelyesi, Customer Project Engineer at Schneider Electric
- An interview with Mireia Miralles, Graduate Engineer at Schneider Electric