In support of National Women in Engineering Day 2015, we asked the Editor-in-Chief of Advances in Building Energy Research (ABER), Professor Dionysia Kolokotsa, to draw on her personal experience of the field to provide her top tips for women pursuing academic and professional careers in Engineering.
1) Have a mentor. Having an experienced mentor who is familiar with the kind of engineering that you want to go into can be extremely useful in offering specific advice with academic and career concerns. In the past, I have been able to offer advice to students I’ve mentored on issues such as the selection of an appropriate postgraduate field and career advice for work in the energy sector. This type of experienced guidance can be a huge help to you and your progression in engineering.
2) Stay up-to-date. It is crucial to follow the recent technological developments in the engineering field that you pursue and stay tuned with innovative technologies and practices. I have tried to follow the technological developments in energy engineering by attending conferences, lectures, and seminars, together with reading specialised scientific journals. This has helped me to be more open minded and able to face different challenges.
3) Be proactive. Planning well is critical. This will make your life easier and allows you to effectively handle other types of responsibilities without jeopardising your professional role and efficiency. Each time I start planning for a new research and/or engineering project, I try to anticipate future steps and conclude the work ahead of the deadline. This allows me plenty of time to review my work and correct possible discrepancies, mistakes, etc.
4) Undertake informal leadership roles. Irrespective of whether or not you are officially the leader on an engineering project, I personally think that you can lead from various positions by influencing how team colleagues work together and how decisions are taken. I think that if you learn to work in different leadership styles by undertaking initiatives from any position in the team, you are a kind of de facto leader and your colleagues will trust you. In sum: every role on an engineering project is a valuable opportunity to lead through example.
5) Be flexible. Flexibility can be a great advantage in engineering. Nowadays the work environment for engineers is becoming more and more fluid, meaning that those who are able to quickly adapt to changing priorities have a significant advantage of those who are too rigid in their approach.
6) Accept criticism well. Both scholarly and professional engineering work will be subject to close critical scrutiny from your colleagues. It is imperative that you are not disheartened by criticism, but instead take it as an opportunity to refine and improve. Each time I get feedback I try to think outside of the box – is there something that I can change for the better? The aggregation of constructive criticism will, in the long run, make you a better engineer.
7) Enjoy team working. This is the key for success in engineering. Investing in long term professional relationships and networking may help you significantly. Engineering work is multidisciplinary and variable, therefore being able to enjoy team working is a considerable asset.