Last month saw our blog posts focussing around the world of energy, whether it was exploring the use of renewable energy produced by the elements, looking at the latest advances in the use of natural resources, and even analysing the energy produced by people themselves. We rounded off the month with a #MyDayInEnergy campaign, meeting the engineers that keep the lights on, and we quizzed energy engineer Tamara Holmgren about her career in the industry in a live Twitter chat.
In celebration of National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED2016), we thought we would break the 140 character limit and share with you the full story of our conversation on energy.
How did you come to be an engineer in the energy sector?
I have always been interested in how things work, and wanted to use this in some way, however I was given no careers advice at school, and was unsure what to do when I left. It was actually my Mum who came across the advert for an engineering apprenticeship in the paper, and suggested I give it a go! The apprenticeship was a great opportunity to learn and gain new skills, while earning a salary at the same time. After I had completed the apprenticeship, I was sponsored by Amec Foster Wheeler to study for my degree.
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your engineering apprenticeship?
Being the only girl on my apprenticeship, I learned how important it was to be true to yourself, and to stay positive and professional. The biggest lesson I learned however is to always be curious and interested in the world around you- it’s the key to being a great engineer!
What is the most exciting thing you have got to do so far in your energy career?
I think the most exciting thing I have ever done is getting to design huge 1000 tonne, prefabricated modules that are shipped all over the world. There is a real sense of achievement when they are all connected together to make a substation, or other vital energy component, at the other end. I have also got to be involved in the design of bridges in Wales. I was really proud of that project; I even sent photos home to my Mum!
What are some of the challenges you have come across in your career in energy?
Every day is a new challenge, in this industry you are problem solving every day. Another challenge is the international scale of our work. Understanding cultural differences is the key to delivering successful projects.
Why should young engineers consider a career in energy?
Engineering gives you the opportunity to travel the world, work on some amazing projects, and generally make a difference in the world around you.
The QEPrize Create the Future report highlighted the provision of clean, sustainable energy as a key world challenge. How do you think engineering can help solve world problems like the energy issue?
Demand for energy is rising, and our resources are being reduced. It is down to engineers to come up with sustainable and cost-effective solutions, and to turn them into more viable forms of alternative energy.
Every project we get is different, and we need to find creative and innovative solutions to each individual problem.
What do you think we need to be doing to encourage young women into a career in engineering?
Girls are dramatically underrepresented – engineering is a fantastic career, and girls can do engineering! We need to encourage more female role models so that girls can see that an engineering career is for them.
How do you think international prizes such as the QEPrize can act as drivers of innovation in the energy sector?
The QEPrize celebrates and promotes engineering, and by encouraging young people, it encourages and inspires the next generation of innovators.
What advice would you give to young engineers considering a career in the energy sector?
Working in energy is incredibly satisfying, and there are many different roles within the industry. Look for what inspires you, and go for it!
How can we ensure that there is enough energy for the growing population?
We all have a part to play. More than three quarters of oil is used by less than 60% of the population, leaving 2 million people without access to modern energy services. We must move towards cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy.
How can we move towards sustainable energy sources in the future?
One trend is a move towards electrification, displacing liquid fuels with electric. There are few practical, large-scale alternatives to liquid fuels, but there are a vast number of ways to generate clean electricity. We can develop more sustainable solutions with electrification, which could be a long term alternative fuel source.