A woman stands in front of a large photograph of a man working as an electrical engineer, wearing a hard hat and high-vis vest.
Amy Ryan, Kirby Group Engineering. Image: Alan Place Photography

‘I want a future where there’s no need for International Women in Engineering Day’

23 Jun 2022

Amy Lane’s engineering career has brought her to places as diverse as an aboriginal community in Australia and a county Cork primary school. Now, working as manager at Kirby Group Engineering in Limerick, she wants her career path to be a realistic one for all young people.

Last month, I found myself arriving at a primary school in Cork, armed with batches of elastic bands, popsicle sticks and paper clips to deliver a workshop on engineering to more than 60 children. I was there as part of Kirby Group Engineering’s early outreach project and about to challenge the kids to build a bridge that could carry a bottle of water for 60 seconds.

You might be surprised that this could be part of my role as electrical engineering manager, but it’s one that I’m passionate about. I’ve also taken on the job of leading Kirby’s graduate engineering programme, because I believe 100pc that positive influences play a huge role in showing young people where their future can lie.

My father is a mechanic and he encouraged my sisters, brother and I to explore STEM subjects at school. Without his influence I could have followed many of my classmates from an all-girls school into nursing, administration, business or teaching, and I would never have known what engineering had to offer. I want to be able to do that for other girls, but on a much bigger scale, so that instead of just two women in an engineering class of 60 at college, there would be 20 or 30.

I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from CIT (now known as MTU) and moved to Australia in 2010. I spent several incredible years there, earning valuable experience in the mining, oil, gas and power sectors, at employers like WorleyParsons and EDL. One of the highlights was working with aboriginal communities to create power generation facilities in some of the most remote parts of the country.

In 2018, it was time to return home to Cork and begin my work in data centre delivery. I left behind many people in the engineering industry, whom I believe would be willing to move home for the right opportunity. It’s been very tough on them to have to stay put during the pandemic and there are plenty of engineering job opportunities right now here in Ireland. If anyone reading this is thinking of making the move home, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to do it.

In my day-to-day work now, I work with engineers across Kirby to make sure they have the tools and people to deliver projects to the exacting standards our clients expect. I’m also embedding Kirby’s new Engineers Ireland CPD accredited employer standards across my team and within the graduate programme and syllabus.

However, there is so much I want to do to inspire excitement about engineering in future graduates from an early age, which is what brings me to primary schools around the country. By the time they finish school and enter university, students have often already decided what they want to be. Unless young women see someone like me working in engineering and loving my job, they might never even consider this work – and they’d miss out on so much. Engineering offers a fantastic career for everyone and my experience with Kirby has shown that digital technology is rapidly expanding the sector’s capabilities, so the number of roles and opportunities are growing all the time.

Once someone arrives into the industry, mentoring is a valuable tool to support them through their career. The relationships you build in your early career can, and do, last a lifetime. They make you better at your job and open your eyes to the bigger picture. I still speak to my first mentor and I’m learning so much from my mentor at Kirby, group electrical engineering manager Barry O’Sullivan.

On International Women in Engineering Day, I really appreciate the opportunity to address colleagues on the issue and put the call out to girls and women to consider a future in engineering. Awareness days play a critical role in raising the profile of the incredible women innovators and inventors who shape our world. But wouldn’t it be great if we got to the point where many more girls consider engineering as a primary career choice?

I like to imagine a future where we don’t need an International Women in Engineering Day, where children don’t feel they fit or don’t fit into a career because of their gender. In the meantime, I and my colleagues at Kirby will continue spreading the word that everyone can have something to offer our field.

By Amy Lane

Amy Lane is electrical engineering manager at Kirby Group Engineering with more than a decade’s experience in the field.

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