As we celebrate even more women for International Women in Engineering Day 2019, Selina Johnson, a Hardware Engineer at Imagination Technologies shares her story, when she first realised she wanted to become an engineer and the journey she has been on. Johnson here also talks about the lack of awareness there still is for females in the industry and what we can do.
"The first time I realised I wanted to be an engineer was in secondary school. I was lucky enough to attend a school with a good design and technology department including an electronics lab, and immediately fell in love with the freedom and ability to make anything that I wanted. I’d always enjoyed making things and finding out how they worked, but something just fitted with electronics, and then clicked again when I started writing code for PICAXE chips. It felt like there was an entire world of possibilities at my fingertips with the union between hardware and software.
I didn’t care about whether women could be engineers until I reached university, where roughly less than ten percent of the people on my course were female. Before then, there hadn’t really been any obvious difference; I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and I’d attended a mixed school. My teachers were represented by both genders, and it just wasn’t a thing that I had noticed or that had been pointed out to me. At university there were a couple of male students who thought that women weren’t suited to being engineers or computer scientists, but there were far more who were supportive, and even more who didn’t care. I never felt left out of anything and I made some good friends.
While my team at Imagination Technologies has more male engineers than female, the great thing is that it doesn’t matter – everyone is judged solely on merit. We have mothers and fathers, younger people and older people, people from different countries, people with different religions and cultures; the only thing that matters is that we have a shared love of the work we do. My managers are encouraging and value my input, and there are women in senior positions who are proof that gender is not a limiting factor in this industry if you have determination, ambition, and enthusiasm.
One of the often talked about factors of women entering and staying in technology companies is that if women want to start a family they can fall behind or not be supported, because men physically cannot birth babies. In my time at Imagination I have seen a number of women start or add to their families and the company and colleagues have been supportive every time; I hope that no woman is discouraged from going down an engineering career path because they want to have children and don’t think they can do both – from first-hand experience, I know women can be engineers and mothers!
In my job I have written specs, reviewed specs, written code, re-written code, verified code and signed-off code. It is said that there is nothing more satisfying than a job well done and this is certainly true – especially those rare occasions when everything works on the first try. I have been involved in the specification and design of new component modules and implemented new technologies. To me engineering is logic manifested as a beautiful problem which just itches to be solved, with a mix of strategy and gut feeling. The more chaotic the problem, the more satisfying the solution will eventually be.
I often describe my work as a hunt – hunting for solutions, hunting to find where the bug is hidden (definitely in someone else’s code, right…?). At times it can feel like my brain is on fire while concepts zip in and out of existence during the chase, but the satisfaction of finding the problems and solutions is the main reason I enjoy being an engineer. Besides, it feels pretty good to have people walking around with technology you designed in their lives.
Becoming an engineer is hard work, and it takes real commitment to do well, but I would encourage everybody and anybody to do it – your gender, age, ethnicity, or anything else don’t matter. It’s your passion for technology that counts the most. It’s an incredibly satisfying job which thrives with diversity. It also pays well, and most engineering firms offer flexible working hours so on a personal level it’s fantastic too. What more could you want from a career?"