How I Became A... Mechanical Engineer
The Debrief: What's it really like to work as a young female mechanical engineer?
Illustration by Hailey Hamilton
Megan Dosdale, 26, works as a mechanical engineer for the property company CBRE. ‘I really like being hands on so I have a lot of job satisfaction - you go in, something’s broken, you work on it all day and you fix it,’ she tells me.
I’m part of a building maintenance team.
'My day can involve absolutely anything from fixing pumps, rewiring lights, fixing doors, fabric work, putting desks together; it’s just whatever comes in so it depends.'
By trade, I’m a marine engineer.
'I was originally in the navy. I joined when I was 18 and spent seven years there as a marine engineer, and I left in 2014.
I actually wanted to become a Personal Trainer Instructor (PTI) in the navy because i was fed up of being stuck in an engine space and I was bored of doing the same deployments out in the middle east. But because they were so short of engineers in the navy they wouldn’t let me transfer, so in the end I just left.
After leaving, I went to work as a marine engineer on private yachts in France for about 6 or 7 months but it was really difficult to maintain a contract because I was a female. It was the rule that all of the male engineers shared a cabin on board, so the only reason I would get a contract was if there was a space in a female cabin, like if a stewardess was on leave. In the end my contracts were really short and there wasn’t enough job security so I had to return to england.'
It usually starts with an apprenticeship.
'I did all my qualifications when I was in the navy but if I was advising somebody I’d say go to college and then find a company that’s willing to take you on as an apprentice. You don’t need a degree to do this job.
A company will take you on and pay for all your college fees and give you a small wage. It won’t be a full wage because you’re not qualified, but once you pass your apprenticeship, you have a job within that firm so then it’s up to you what to do. Some firms want a return of service so they might make you sign a contract. For example, you might have to do a four year apprenticeship but they might want two years of work from you once you qualify.'
You do have to prove yourself
'It’s been fine, but as a woman, I feel that I have to prove myself massively in a new job. When I first joined CBRE the other guys had never worked with a girl before and they said when they found out it was a girl replacing the old mechanical engineer they were like ‘Oh god here we go’, but I’ve been doing it for so long now.
You have to go that little bit further just to prove yourself in the first instance, not be quiet about it, and be confident in what you do, you’re just as qualified as them, and once you prove you’re capable of the job and they’ve figured you out, then it’s cool.'
You’re always outnumbered
'I don’t work with any other women. You’re always going to be outnumbered but I think the biggest thing is to socialise with the guys and they become your friends. Don’t go in shy and single yourself out. There’s no point standing in the corner; don’t be scared to pipe up, be heard and say something.
There’s always going to be difficult guys, but you’ll gain your own respect and they end up probably respecting you a bit more. Get involved and just do what you’re trained to do. At the end of the day, you’ve all got the same qualifications. It’s all about people skills but that isn’t about being a man or a woman.'
I’m studying to become a plumber
'I’m actually doing my Gas Safe course so I can be a fully qualified plumber in domestics because I want to go into property developing so I’m doing that at homebase learning off my own back.'
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