View from the top: Advice from Dame Ann Dowling

Dame Ann Dowling smiles as she delivers a speech at a lectern. The wall behind has the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering logo on it.

15 June 2015


Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, shares her advice for those considering a career in engineering.

Do something you enjoy

Find something that really interests you and that you find worthwhile. Then work becomes a pleasure – at least most of the time.

If you see yourself as a creative person then I urge you to consider engineering

Many people think that engineering is not a creative career. They see it as being about either hard maths or hard hats. In reality, it is a wonderfully broad and exciting discipline that can take you across the world working on projects or allow you to imagine. Engineering is about collaboration, communication and innovation. From mobile phones to megastructures, biomedicine to biofuels, plastics to prosthetics, engineering is everywhere. If you want to put your creative mind to good use, then consider engineering.

Don’t plan too much

It is good to have a general career plan, but be flexible. Opportunities will arise that exceed anything you imagined and when they do seize them. Don’t be scared of failure. Be ready to test yourself outside your comfort zone. Women, in particular, tend not to apply for jobs that they do not believe they will get. I don’t think this is always to do with perfectionism but rather a fear of failing. The problem is that if you don’t apply then you have no chance at all. The consequence is that often men get jobs that women are equally qualified for. If you think that you would enjoy a job and could do it well, just apply. Don’t be scared of failing and you might just succeed.

Build your own support system

Find the right social support. Surround yourself with supportive friends and find a partner who encourages your career aspirations. Life is much more enjoyable if you surround yourself with enthusiastic friends and colleagues.

Education is important

Formal education and training give you a great start, but life is a continual learning experience. Adopt new ideas, welcome new challenges, and continually evolve throughout your working lives. Develop a distinctive and special combination of skills and experience that will make you highly sought-after.

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