“When I finally found myself in the real working world after University, I had no doubt that engineering was my destiny”
In light of International Women in Engineering Day, we are proud to share insight into some of our female engineer’s careers. We had the chance to talk to Miriam Spatafora, a Structures Engineer in London, and this is what she had to say:
When I was a little girl, my father used to involve my brother and I in playing with LEGO and building blocks, as well as letting us do all sorts of manual DIY tasks around the house like creating small electrical circuits. I have very good memories of this which I’m sure played a part in my career choice. Despite having a strong love of Literature and Arts, I surprised everyone when I picked Engineering at University.
I loved studying Physics and so, at 18 years old, I felt that I could make my contribution to the world as an Engineer and help to add something to our environment, working in harmony with nature and building things that last. When I finally found myself in the real working world after University, with live projects and surrounded by highly skilled professionals, I had no doubt that engineering was my destiny. Using my creativity, my ingenuity and my sensitivity to build a better environment for people.
I originally had concerns about practicing engineering, firstly because I was worried I wouldn’t end up enjoying it after all those years of studying and secondly because I thought my mixed background of Architectural Engineering and Sustainable Architecture studies would not fit in. However, I found that being an Engineer required more creativity than I had thought and my artistic oriented skills worked to my advantage.
Engineering is a continuously evolving field. There are new challenges every day and I am always learning new things, reading journals and papers, keeping myself interested and motivated, in addition to adapting to new situations and keeping track of new development methods. I recently worked on a project which involved challenging deadlines, allowing me the opportunity to increase my responsibilities and expectations from my team and external professionals. Stepping out of my comfort zone taught me to become more confident and assertive, letting me build good relationships based on professionalism and reliability, which are key aspects in the consultancy engineering market.
There is a sort of epiphany or defining moment when I see my designs being built on site. I get this buzz, take a picture and send it to my loved ones. It is very rewarding to know that you are contributing to something much bigger than yourself and I am so eager to get more and more involved in this.
I would encourage women to undertake a career in engineering because it requires our passion, creativity, dedication and practical sense. There can be misconceptions and prejudices, but I would say to them to pursue their goals regardless of these because engineering is a highly rewarding career and has a broad field of applications so everyone can find the path that best suits them.
There were occasions where I was told “you are smart to be a girl” or “you look so delicate, it’s so surprising you are an Engineer” and it made me realise that prejudice is very much still alive. However, it does fill me with a lot of hope and pride when I see campaigns which are promoting equality between genders in the workplace. Children of the new generations already seem to be more inclined to respect each other without prejudices.
Recently, I have been involved in the Constructionarium experience with the students at UCL, and I proudly realised it was highly female populated. These young students are passionate and interested with a huge drive and determination to think outside of the box. I am sure some of them will make wonderful professionals in the construction industry.
Similarly, Women in Engineering Day gives us another perception of how important it is to raise the awareness of women within the industry. I feel this is a good moment to share with our colleagues, as well as students, because there are many opportunities within this industry which can come across as highly populated by men. It is good to keep in mind that women are not the exception in engineering, there is a whole community of talented professionals and a series of activities and initiatives to promote their influence in this field. Women in Engineering Day can be an inspiring moment of growth for both men and women, now and for those to come.
Engineer comes from the Latin ‘ingenium’ which entails the capability to detect, analyse and solve problems. I think this is the kind of job you never get bored of and I feel proud doing what I do – I love having enthusiasm for my job and am eager to learn every single day!
You can also view our International Women in Engineering Day video here.