At CityFibre, we’re growing fast. To realise our vision to transform dozens of cities across the UK, we need hundreds of committed, skilled and innovative engineers from all backgrounds, the more diverse the better. International Women in Engineering Day (June 23) is a great opportunity to talk about the fantastic careers awaiting women at CityFibre, and to hear from just one of the women engineers already on our team.
Melanie Owen followed her father’s footsteps into telecoms, taking up an apprenticeship direct from school. She completed her training in double quick time and moved into project management. Now at only 25 years old, she’s CityFibre’s Senior Delivery Manager in Milton Keynes. That puts her in charge of the successful design and delivery of the full fibre network on the ground. Milton Keynes is CityFibre’s flagship city, the first where we announced plans to roll out full fibre broadband to almost every home and business. And it’s a project that’s turned out to be right up Mel’s street, combining practical challenges with teamwork.
We interviewed Melanie about International Women in Engineering Day:
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love working with my team, and generally working with people. I really enjoy seeing something from the beginning, going through a bit of a scramble, finding solutions by using the wide range of experience in the team and delivering success together.
What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Dependencies and sheer volume of work. Everything that comes in needs to be done yesterday! I work hard to balance the workload for myself but also for my team.
What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do (especially for women)?
Be resilient. Don’t let anything get in your way. Do what makes you happy. I would also recommend apprenticeships as a great entry into engineering: you can get qualifications, earn money and could get your degree fully funded – what’s not to like?
What do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
I wish I had aligned my education with business and technology developments and taken more STEM subjects at school. Now I’m about to start an Open University degree in Business & Management. I’ll earn a postgraduate Masters qualification, but I won’t have many weekends free for the next two years!
Where would you like to be in five years?
I’m aiming to be in a director role in five years – maybe a bit ambitious, but it’s good to have something to aim for. I’m a senior delivery manager now so I’ll need to build my qualifications and self-capability and maybe start with a sideways move to pick up more skills. It’s about saying yes to opportunities.
How do you think we could encourage more women into engineering studies and jobs in the UK?
I think representation matters. like showing women in hard hats and high vis jackets in adverts and leaflets, having women at career fairs promoting engineering jobs and focusing on girls’ schools. We can plant ideas in people’s heads and after a few generations engineering won’t be so male-dominated anymore. For example, one of my friends was looking for a job and she had never thought of engineering, but I helped her to apply for BT’s engineering apprenticeship scheme and she loves it.
Were you aware that you had to defy gender expectations to follow your passions?
I’ve never seen my gender as a barrier, but I sometimes struggle with ageism. I’m 25 years old and most of my peers are over 40, so I often find that people look at me differently when I walk into a room. When I meet people for the first time, I have to put in more effort to be taken seriously, present myself well and work harder to prove my worth. But ultimately, it’s this diversity of people around the table that will help us succeed.