Meet Faye – Leading the way in Energy Solutions
I believe women deserve to live and work as people first, rather than having to be seen through the lens of gender. Which is why I prefer to be seen as an “engineer” first and foremost, rather than a ‘female engineer’. To get there, more change and inclusion is needed so we should keep celebrating our diversity knowing that our difference can be our strength, embracing the uniqueness and value that diversity in thought can bring
How did your career at Siemens begin?
I joined Siemens when I was 16 years old as a Technical Apprentice in Mechanical Engineering and I've now been here for 17 years. I come from a long line of engineers, following in the footsteps of my Granddad, Dad, Uncle and Brother. Earlier in my career I was part of the Field Service team, servicing Gas Turbines. The role required me to travel the world with other Engineers to carry out work in power stations in diverse working cultures, from the Netherlands to South Korea, and often in challenging circumstance. I was the only female amongst a total of 140 Engineers in the team, and I was just 20 years old.
I spent roughly 10 years in multi-discipline Engineering roles such as core engine build, product training, technical support and control applications. I then moved into more of a commercial role, managing different contracts for customers in places like Germany and Japan and then Sales around Russia and Eastern Europe, finally changing over to Siemens UK.
I now lead a Business Unit called Energy Solutions, looking to serve our customers increasing demand for service-based energy savings models that are tailored for their needs using energy efficiency measures, on-site generation and energy market expertise.
Tell us about some of the interesting highlights of your career, working at Siemens in an engineering role?
What I’ve always loved about Engineering is that it’s so diverse, so multi-faceted and so, frankly, exciting, and that we can say Engineering touches almost every sector of society. When I think of the highlights, my mind tends to focus on the experiences that brings, centred on the amazing places I’ve been able to visit and the skills I’ve got from learning from other cultures. To see a whole different side of a country like China, Japan and Russia was fascinating, not just as a tourist, but really having that sort of lived experience with people who were just going to work day to day, getting to know our customers. I felt like I got a really different experience that I don't think I would have had if I'd taken a different route.
What do you like best about working at Siemens?
One of the things that I've always enjoyed is the variety of opportunities that present themselves at Siemens given the breadth of the organisation in terms of products, markets, geography and job roles. When you go into Engineering, you sometimes have a preconceived picture in your mind of ‘an engineer’. When I started, I was on the shop-floor so it was maybe more stereotypical as it was overalls on and ‘getting your hands dirty’. But then when I was a Controls Engineer, it was a very different type of Engineering, the challenge appealed to my mind in terms of design, systems thinking and fault finding. After that, I was an Engineer but managing contracts; another totally different role. What I really like is the size of the organisation, the culture and the people, all giving you the opportunity to ask, where can I add most value? Where can I really thrive? And I just think that the opportunities are there for you to be the best you can be.
What’s been your proudest moment at Siemens?
There are a lot of different events and projects that stand out but for me, I’m proudest of the harder parts of my careers. There have been some difficult points in challenging roles with high levels of complexity. On-top of that there would moments that I would find it difficult to integrate and perceptions from others could be an obstacle for me to work at my best, there can be people that doubt you because of your age or appearance and question if you’re right for job.
Despite these challenges, I had some very strong allies, that made a lasting impact on my career. At key moments they just gave me some words of kindness and said “keep going, you're the right person to do this, you've got the right experience”. And those difficult points in my career are the ones I look back on and I know I persevered, I got my head down, I worked hard and I've learnt a lot through those experiences. Whether it's an organisation, whether it's a friendship group or family, it’s those difficult points where it really tests your belief in what you're doing. I got through it which made me realise, yes, I'm in the right place.
What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you early on in your career?
Looking back, I think a mistake that I’ve made is that I've always been waiting until I've done ‘this’, until I've accomplished ‘that’, until I've learnt ‘this’; I would think to myself, once I've reached a certain level of experience and knowledge then I’ll be good. There has always been this need to keep striving and prove my value to the business. I wish I had realised that when you’re early on in your career or in a midpoint, when you are going through this learning process, you're always adding value. I think recognising that and asking today “what can I do?” rather than thinking of tomorrow then you can recognise the value of having a fresh mind and great attitude. There was something there that was quite pure and can really bring new insights. I didn't fully appreciate that at the time. And even 10 years ago I wish that I'd thought more of my opinion and my voice so that I would have spoken out more, been present and enjoyed it rather than put myself under pressure.
How did you navigate a male dominated engineering environment and at such a young age?
On the male dominated aspect, for me, it's now my norm. My first day is still a very vivid memory in my mind; going through the factory turnstile, walking through, heading onto the shop floor and the majority of people around me were men, through my apprenticeship, through my roles, the departments that I worked in. At 16, I felt very young because I was; I had just come out of school, I was used to being with my friends. I remember thinking that I've got so much to learn from these people around me, how can I be the most respectful to them?
One point that I resented early in my career was being branded a ‘female engineer’, I simply wanted to be an ‘engineer’ the same as my male counterparts. When I was in Field Service, I was the only female amongst a total of 140 Engineers in the team, and I was just 20 years old. My overriding instinct was always to try and ‘fit in’ and be described how everyone else was. Over time, my perception has changed. As I’ve developed my skills, my experiences, listened to advice, both good and bad, I’ve learned that my difference can be my strength. Rather than keeping my head down, I stand proud embracing the uniqueness and value that diversity in thought can bring and allowing myself to bring my whole self to work.
However, against this backdrop I do still face a dilemma. On one hand, I believe women deserve to live and work as people first, rather than having all actions and efforts read through the lens of gender, hence my desire to be simply recognised as an “engineer” first and foremost. On the other hand, I believe we should celebrate our diversity and overall the different perspectives different lived experiences bring, taking advantage of the victories won by the previous era of feminist activists, knowing that 100 years ago it would have been absurd to wear trousers, access well paid jobs and socialise in the way we do today.
So today I am proud that my personality shines though in what I do. Despite following in the footsteps of the male role models in my family, the female role models in my family are as equally, if not more influential now, in how I do my job.