Hitting new goals
In my role as Lead Engineer, I was proud to become a Type Airworthiness Authority (TAA). It’s always been an ambition of mine. That’s someone who holds personal accountability for aircraft design airworthiness. It’s effectively a license given by our Director Combat Air, underwritten by the Military Aviation Authority based on professional qualifications and experience. With this, you are given an official Letter of Airworthiness Authority (LoAA) to show that you’ve met this high professional standard.
There are lots of steps to take to work towards an LoAA, including gaining experience with a variety of teams and systems. You tend to start with an aircraft sub-system – like hydraulics, electrical, or propulsion – analysing the sub-system and reporting any risks, and progress from there to whole platforms, and sometimes multiple platforms. You need to hold an engineering degree and engineering chartership, and undertake courses to understand Military Aviation Authority regulations (on topics like safety and structural integrity). You’ll also participate in courses for the specific aircraft you work on as well. It sounds like a lot but it’s essential to ensure the aircraft our military use are as safe as possible, no matter what environment they’re in – whether that’s at sea, in a desert, or in a jungle. It’s a huge responsibility!
Inspiring future female leaders
As part of the Lightning team, I had an amazing boss who really inspired me. She helped me start believing in myself: she challenged me, in a good way, and never undermined my authority. At the time, I’d never had a female manager before – though it’s brilliant to see far more women in engineering management positions now! It made me want to take my experience and pass it down to the other women on my team. To be a role model for them and give them the opportunities to succeed too.
I’m involved in lots of activities as part of our Women in Engineering staff network. It’s a great place to promote the work female engineers are doing here, including an annual celebration of some of our inspiring colleagues for International Women in Engineering Day.
We know that women are still underrepresented in the engineering industry, and more so in more senior positions. For me personally, it’s important that female engineers can see themselves represented at all levels, because the more you have visibility of female engineering leaders, the more you believe you can be one yourself. That’s why I’m a STEM ambassador, because the more we encourage young women to consider engineering as an option early on, and encourage girls to keep studying science and maths subjects from a young age, the more diverse and representative the industry will become. And the more women are represented in the engineering industry, the greater parity we’ll feel.
Finding the balance with childcare
When we had our first child, it was just as Shared Parental Leave was being introduced. That enabled me to take six months off, and then my wife (who also works for the MOD) also took six months off. It was great to be able to share that leave evenly and a lovely opportunity to have that much time with our child in those early stages.
Flexible and hybrid working has also definitely helped us find our work-life balance. Having the ability to work from home or in the office as needed makes a massive difference for the parents here. And because of that flexibility, you end up being able to give more back to the organisation too, so it really is win-win.
We’ve also both been able to work a nine-day fortnight by adopting compressed hours. We both alternate in having Mondays off, originally to reduce childcare costs but now useful for catching up on life admin or doing something nice. When I moved teams, it was important to me that I could continue to do this, and the team’s been so supportive, moving key meetings to make sure I would still be able to go.