This coming Saturday (23rd June 2018) is International Women in Engineering Day – leading up to this day we will be sharing stories of women working in Engineering throughout the week. Our first case study is from Rhiann Surgenor, 24, who is a Support Officer in Highways at based at the Wilton depot. She is being supported by Wiltshire Council on a day release to study for a Civil Engineering qualification. We spoke to Rhiann about her journey so far. What did you do when you left school and how did this bring you to where you are now?
I wasn’t sure which direction to take when I left school so I enrolled at Bournemouth College to study A-Levels (English, Media and Sociology) from there I worked as an admin assistant at a veterinary practice. I decided I wanted more from my role and saw that Wiltshire Council were recruiting an admin assistant in the Adult Care team. I started the role in February 2014, from there I moved into customer services in September 2015. During my time in customer services I was involved in reporting from My Wiltshire – the app which allows members of the public to report issues directly to Wiltshire Council. I became a liaison between customer services and highways; this is where my interest in the area grew. My input in how to improve the service was valuable to the team and when I saw the support officer role I took the chance, I joined the team in March 2017.
What does your role involve day to day and how can you see yourself progressing?
I am predominately office based I work off the reports received from the My Wiltshire app – some issues I am able to solve there and then from my desk but other times I pass these onto the technicians and engineers who are out and about across Wiltshire. We also receive correspondence via email, phone and by mail and I am responsible for responding to these. I am lucky that I am in a supportive team and have been given the chance to go out on site and shadow engineers and technicians. This gives me greater understanding of what is happening on the highways. I am currently finishing my first year of an HNC in Civil Engineering at Southampton Solent University. My manager has been really flexible in allowing me a day release to undertake this training. In the future, I hope to progress into a technician role and eventually gain my degree to become an engineer.
What advice would you give to young girls and women who are interested in engineering?
If you are interested in engineering don’t be afraid to go for it! Even though the industry is male dominated and it is not the career path I imagined myself on, I find it fascinating that I am involved in fixing something – every day is different you never know what you’re going to find when you come into the office. There is so much to learn and with the progression comes more involvement, the more younger people that come into the industry means more innovation in the way things are done. Do what you can to achieve your goals.