With the application deadline for our new Production Technology and Engineering MA fast approaching, we meet with some leading women engineers working at the BBC to find out why engineering is a great career option for all.
Hannah Fraser is a Technologist working in the BBC Research and Development Department (part of the Design and Engineering department) and is tasked with looking to the future and finding technological solutions or new ways of doing things to keep the BBC at the cutting edge of broadcasting. Some of the BBC’s experimental ideas and research can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/taster and include listening to the BBC Proms in Binaural 3D Sound as well as a 360 video Dr Who experience.
After completing a Mathematics degree at Durham University, Hannah started her career with a graduate position at Western Geophysical where she learnt how to programme and the principles of geophysics. It turned out that the way sound goes through rock is identical to the maths used in radio frequencies, which was useful when she came to join the BBC. She started with the broadcaster in 2000 and worked on the software for the TV digital switchover.
Hannah describes her decision to study maths as ‘cowardly’ as she knew she wanted to do engineering even though she didn’t really know what that involved. She feels that society pigeonholes us: “We push girls subconsciously towards humanities. It was strange enough for a girl to study maths when I did but it was even stranger for a girl to study engineering. I think the problem goes way back to when children are taught by largely female teachers from non-STEM backgrounds. Companies need to think outside the box when hiring women who may not have gone through the standard engineering educational route. I’ve heard of some taking on women who have studied subjects like biology so they don’t miss out on women with brilliant minds and highly developed problem solving abilities.”
On what kind of advice she would give to women who would like to embark upon an engineering and technology career, Hannah advised: “Don’t be afraid to try things; don’t step back, step forward, and don’t wait until you’re 100% sure you can do something. I think these are the biggest separators between men and women”.
Abigail Seager is a DevOps Engineer working as part of a team on a media network used for streaming live contributions over IP back to base.
Abigail: “I really enjoy my role because it combines broadcast engineering with network engineering and I get to work on a variety of different systems. Every day is different, I could be helping plan for an event or fixing an unexpected problem or helping develop new ideas. It’s a great team to work in and we work a lot with other departments too, which means I get to work with a lot of really interesting people”.
After graduating with a degree in Physics, Abigail came across The BBC Engineering Trainee Scheme. “It caught my eye because it looked like a challenge and an opportunity to apply some of the knowledge from my degree whilst learning about something completely new.” On why she loves working in the broadcast industry, Abigail said: “I think it’s an exciting time to be working in the broadcast industry because so much is changing as technology is developing, moving broadcasting towards IP. The way content is broadcast and consumed is evolving as things like social media and online presence become more important. It’ll be really interesting to see how new technologies change broadcasting in the future and it’s rewarding to be part of that. I love the way everything is constantly on the move, changing and developing. Technology changes all the time so I’ll never be bored because there’s always something new and interesting just around the corner! It’s also a very wide field, there are lots of different opportunities and areas to get involved with.”
And on why more women should get into engineering: “It’s such a rewarding job with so many opportunities. I'd never considered broadcasting before I heard about the BBC Scheme and I was surprised by the amount of different areas there are and how different all my work placements were. It's hard to get bored in a job with so much variety! Everyone I’ve met in this industry has been really supportive and encouraging which makes it feel like a great place to learn. Only 9% of engineers in the UK are women - I think women are missing out!”
Applications are open for the NFTS Production Technology and Engineering MA until the 7th September and the two-year course starts in January 2018, more information at www.nfts.co.uk/productiontech