Career Story: Emma Vickerson

In celebration of Women in Engineering day on 23 June 2019, Emma Vickerson, an Engineer Surveyor at Bureau Veritas has taken some time to discuss her day to day role and how she thinks the industry is encouraging more women to pursue a career in engineering.

What is your role at Bureau Veritas and how long have you been in the role?

I joined Bureau Veritas in October 2013 as an engineer surveyor specialising in pressure for the nuclear business. I have thoroughly enjoyed this role over the past six years and having previously worked at sea for many years, I am now able to enjoy a good work life balance. A key factor in why I have never felt the need to move on from Bureau Veritas is my colleagues and managers, who have always been friendly and a great team to be a part of. Another reason is the client facing aspect to the role. Over the years I have been able to build a strong rapport with clients and really understand how different clients work. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I would start the day by dropping my daughter off at nursery before setting off to a nuclear site in Cumbria. Here I spend my time inspecting, completing reports and answering technical queries and issues over the phone and on site. I tend to remain on the same site, however business needs can change and I can be called out to a different site every now and again. For instance, I was recently called out to a kitchen manufacturers for an inspection which is very different to my typical day on a highly secure nuclear site which tends to be very formal. This variance in sites allows me to meet a wide range of different people and keeps my role very interesting.

How did you begin your career in engineering?

When I was 17, I started a Cadetship with the Merchant Navy. I was very fortunate, as a company called Maritime London funded my three year training course before working for three years in the Merchant Navy once qualified. The course was a combination of both college course work and hands on experience out at sea which ensured a fully comprehensive training of the world of engineering.

Once I completed my Cadetship, I started my career working on cruise ships and vessels as an engineer for around six years. A friend of mine then joined Bureau Veritas and introduced me to the services that they offered and I found there was an opportunity for me with the business and I have now been here for over six years.

Looking back it is quite interesting because one of the first ships that I worked on as a 17 year old was actually inspected by Bureau Veritas Marine, which I had no idea of at the time. It seems that I was a part of Bureau Veritas before I even knew it!

Why did you choose to become an engineer? What were the major factors in your decision?

I have always found myself to be interested in how things really work. During school I was good at physics and worked a lot with electronics, so I clearly had an engineering preference from an early age! What I knew I really wanted to do was work at sea, which left me with two options; navigation or inspection. As directions and navigation are not a strong point for me, the inspection route appealed to me much more. 

In your experience, what are the benefits of working in engineering?

Engineering is an area of expertise that can be very challenging at times, but is an interesting area of work. Every day brings new challenges and no two days are the same which is what keeps the job interesting. 

Engineering careers are strongly supported by both the government and large organisations. There are various routes to take and schemes available to start a career into the industry and you will find that businesses will fund them, such as university degrees or apprenticeships. The site I currently work on, many of the employees on site began their career through apprenticeships and have been given the opportunity to study for a higher education which is funded by their employer.

I think there is a great benefit to gaining a career in engineering as there are lots of opportunities and support and generally speaking, it is well paid.

Do you think that there is enough being done in the industry to encourage more women to seek a career in engineering?

I feel that the industry has come a long way in regards to women working in engineering, but there is still a long way to go. I remember when I first began studying, I was the only girl in the classroom but by the time I started college, there was around five or six of us.

In the town where I grew up there was a massive ship company that were great at attending schools to encourage young women to become an engineer. I feel that nowadays there are more organisations making a similar conscious effort, which is great to see.

In regards to the stigma, I have never felt discriminated in my role and in fact, once a client or peer gets to know me and understands how I work, they tend to hold a lot of respect for me in my role.

Do you feel that Bureau Veritas support you in your role and, as an organisation, offer development opportunities?

I have recently had a daughter and therefore had 12 months off for maternity. Both during my pregnancy and my maternity leave, Bureau Veritas were very supportive of my needs and adapting my role. They understood that my role would need to adapt to the change in my situation and they were very supportive in meeting those needs. 

In regards to development, I feel that managers and the technical side of the business are a great support of progression. I am currently studying at Open University to gain a full bachelors honours, and I have had a positive experience from my manager in regards to study time and working around exams and deadlines.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in engineering?

If it is something that you are passionate about, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are good at your job and work hard people will see that and you will get the respect you deserve.