I was honoured to be recently profiled by the UKRC as part of their GetSet Blog. Every fortnight they give exposure to a different female engineer to highlight the fantastic array of opportunities the field offers and inspire others to give engineering a go.
How to wangle your way into anything…
Motivation: Engineers are in the business of design and innovation; the dictionary says they ‘contrive things’ or ‘wangle’. In so doing engineers have the ability to resourcefully improve lives. On reflection it’s clear a career as a wangler beckoned as my personal goal is to do what I can to affect the world positively. So to work in an industry with the potential to make things happen and furthermore a practice whose main aim is to blaze a trail seems only natural.
Inspiration: As catalysts for progress it’s imperative for engineers to see beyond the known and consider the world’s bigger questions. There’s nothing like trespassing into other territories to inspire. Rather than don a graduation robe (much to my grandma’s despair) I eloped on a love affair with architecture. An intensive course at Harvard GSD allowed me to escape the constraints of the physical world. So commenced my intrigue with environmental psychology – how surroundings can stimulate improvement. Notions I explored further during a placement with Shigeru Ban Architects in Tokyo. Here anything was possible including projecting the shadow of a falcon from the structural elements of a diamond form pavilion. Any space can be injected with charisma by harnessing qualities nature freely provides and successful built environment designers embrace this.
Education: Close to the heart of engineering is education; learning and teaching are both perpetual elements of the job. I was very fortunate to be employed to design and manage a school build for a French NGO in Indonesia. Between endless games of Taboo (aka communicating in French and Indonesian), a school evolved. My perspective shifted through the months of exchanging knowledge with the locals to facilitate the build. I’ll never forget the day we resorted to a game of hide and seek to dodge police bribes when transporting construction materials. Subsequently even-tempered negotiation saved the budget – not a grey hair or pounding heart in sight! Project completion was the first time I was able to quantify the difference engineering design can make to people’s lives.
Application: Now working for Expedition I am surrounded by the intelligence that led design of the Infinity Bridge, is on the 2012 Olympic Velodrome collaborative team and offers structural advice for emergency shelters to name but a few initiatives. It’s an office with a buzz of potential in the air. Daily I am able to engage with wide-ranging issues, from delving into structural design to radical research on developing the company as a colony of self-organising termites.
Reflection: Most recently I escaped to the countryside with a design collective to build structures in a wood. Stepping away from normality sharpens the brain. By hometime I’m invariably teeming with new possibilities. Exploring the world presents infinite opportunities to absorb engineering inspiration and so I invite you all to wangle…
Angela Crowther works for Expedition (www.expedition.uk.com) where, amongst doing other useful things, she is aiming to become a Chartered Engineer. She graduated in 2008 with an MEng in Civil and Architectural Engineering from the University of Bath. Throughout her degree she was supported by scholarships from the Royal Academy of Engineering, Institution of Civil Engineers, Happold Trust and Smallpeice Trust, providing opportunities for many of the experiences described above.