Nine different highlights of the WES Student Conference 2016

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Technical & Commercial Leadership
This talk was really useful as speakers from BP shared about their work. I used to think working offshore would be boring as people have to stay away from home for a long period of time and the lack of entertainment. I was surprised how the speaker had enjoyed her work and gained huge satisfaction from the responsibilities she was given. It definitely attracts me to apply for a placement at BP.

Regarding the talk given by a female representative from the British Army, to be frank, I never thought females would enjoy working in the army! It was interesting to learn about the exciting projects she worked on, and the large amount of training they received prior to the start of work. This helped me learn about the work of engineers in an army, and made me realize the importance of teamwork.
Janet (Yin Yu FONG) (Mechanical Engineering – Year 4)
Technical & Commercial Leadership
Having 3 speakers from distinct backgrounds talk to us on their experience was eye-opening. First, two graduates from BP shared their newly started career, and it clearly showed how different the challenges were even though they were working for the same company. Both had a chance to work on impactful projects, which sometimes involved travelling and even going offshore. Similarly, it was very interesting learning more about the British Army, and all the different roles that they offer. After the talk, I definitely felt motivated and I'm looking forward to my engineering-related future.
Yolanda Chan Chan (Mechanical Engineering – Year 4)

Design and Development of Processes, Systems, Services and Products
This session aimed to help us understand the overall concepts of a systems approach to engineering. We went through some definitions of a system, as well as applying them to practical life and examples which made it very simple to picture.  As one of the exercises, we were required to do was connect 9 dots with 4 lines without lifting the pen, which I did not know how to do. However, I am glad to say that this is one of the skills I took home with me from the session.
As Dr Lucas had done a graduate placement at Jaguar Land Rover, she gave me some helpful and insightful tips which have been of help with my placement application to Jaguar Land Rover. I spoke to her after the talk about her career and what she has done, and I was very inspired to really up my game to say the least.
All in all, the conference was great, and I truly appreciate the opportunity that I had to speak to and interact with all the inspirational women (and men), who are shaping the future of engineering.
Elizabeth Macharia (Electrical & Electronic Engineering MSc Electrical Power Systems)

Design and development of processes, systems, services and products
The workshop focussed on an introduction to Systems Engineering, a discipline that incorporates technical engineering with elements of controls, philosophy, and organisational studies in order to design, implement, manage and improve complex systems over their lifetime. The workshop started with a group discussion around the definitions of a system and the terms complex and complicated, and then moved on to cover tools for systemic thinking and problem solving. We also worked on defining the boundaries and environment of systems and how knowing these can help to uncover relationships between parts, states and situations. As a Chemical Engineer, it was a completely new way of thinking for me, but I enjoyed the different approach to problems and can definitely see how it might be useful in the future!
Amy Ross (Chemical Engineering – Final year)

Communication and interpersonal skills' workshop
On the second day of the conference, a number of workshops were run; one of these was on communication and interpersonal skills, with a specific focus on presentations and use of the voice. One thing I certainly didn't expect from the conference was to find myself making strange noises trying to talk to someone I’d only just met without using words! Having been given a quick intro into the anatomy of the voice and a crash course on acoustics, we then practised techniques that can be used to warm up the voice, slow your breath and create a more engaging sound in order to stay calm and clear whilst presenting. Having mastered how to use our voices, it was onto tips for creating a flash five-minute presentation with very little prep time – perfect for assessment centres. We all quickly planned presentations on fish and chips using a basic structure and one brave participant headed to the front of the room to give her presentation. We then gave her advice on improving and she had another go. It was a great session, mostly full of laughter and I definitely learnt some good tips and tricks for next time I have to give a presentation.
Sian Ebsworth (Mechanical Engineering – Final year)

Communication & Interpersonal Skills workshop
Dr Jude Brereton from University of York demonstrated us the ways of feeling confident while giving a presentation, the effect of stress in our body, and how we could use our voice in most effective way. We initially wrote the moments we most and least felt confident. Then, we looked at the structure of our throat and breathed in to figure out the differences prior and after the expansion of our lungs and how much air we could store in one intake. This session helped me to realize the movement of my body when I breath. In addition to this, we focused on our voice and its power. After what I have experienced and learnt in the workshop, I will definitely try to focus on a distant point while talking so that my voice actually reaches to the audience at the very back seat and try to take care of my voice as it is one of the primary ways to communicate with other people.
Ilayda Ozaltan (Mechanical Engineering – Year 1)

Underground Professional Services
I thoroughly enjoyed the WES Student Conference as it truly inspired me to continue to pursue a career in engineering and encourage more women into the industry. One talk that I particularly enjoyed was by Kate Cooksey from Underground Professional Services. As an undergraduate Civil Engineer I learnt a lot from the projects she’d worked on including the Thames Tidesway Tunnel, Lee Tunnel and Crossrail C510 Whitechapel and Liverpool Street Station. Additionally I was also inspired by how she had launched the ITA Young Members Committee in 2015 as well as the BTS Young Members Committee to inspire the next generation of engineers.
Rachel Hayden (Civil Engineering – year 1)

Why WES?
On Day 2 we found ourselves discovering the importance of the existence of WES with Dr Sarah Peers' talk "Why WES?". This was justified through a somewhat depressing series of numbers and figures, all signifying the shortage of women in STEM professions. Even when it was proven that women excelled in scientific and practical subjects at school, it was shown that very few of them chose to pursue a career in those fields. Is the education system to blame for this? Is it the norms of society? Is it nature, or is it nurture? Dr Peers proved that it is definitely a combination, but it is about time things change. Women (as well as men) are invaluable in the field of engineering as they are in any field where teamwork is a central aspect. But to manage to create the perfectly balanced team of engineers, both genders should be willing to get involved. There is a misconception that women are not as sought out for engineering positions as men are, and unconscious bias among other things does play a role in that. And yet, why is it that women lack confidence and hold back from even applying for these roles? Despite the overall dismal tone of it, the talk ended in a positive note: this is why WES exists. Events like this one are just the cornerstone to making women acknowledge and develop their potential as engineers of all roles, including managerial positions.

Nefeli Poyiatzi (Chemical Engineering – Year 1)     

Role models, identity, and confidence
Dr Joanna's Collingwood speech "Role models, identity and confidence" followed. Making her way to the podium with her little daughter Anna, Dr Collingwood's double role was made clear to us: an associate professor in the Systems and Information stream at the University of Warwick, but also a mother. Inevitably having to miss out on spending time with her daughter during the day, Dr Collingwood illustrated how she made sure that her daughter was surrounded by influential people and potential role models at the university, many of which happened to be fellow engineers, or engineering students. Little Anna grew up watching the tv programme Fireman Sam and aspiring to be like the female member of Sam's fire brigade. She knows no limits as to which gender should pursue which career, and she is used to being surrounded by female engineers. And if there is a single thing in Dr Collingwood's talk that stayed with us, that would be Anna's question to her mother, as a young child surrounded by women in engineering: "Can boys also do engineering, and not only girls?" Her upbringing and nurture made us realise the extent to which people around us are constantly conforming to stereotypes, and how it is in our hands to change this.

Nefeli Poyiatzi (Chemical Engineering – Year 1)     

Conference dinner speaker
The first day of the WES conference concluded with Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, as the after-dinner speaker. You may otherwise know Dr Morgan as the scientist who devised the viral formula of how to win a game of Pooh sticks.
His talk titled ‘Is diversity in Engineering too tough a nut to crack? Let’s find a bigger hammer’ was very witty and engaging. The take home point for me was that dispelling the myths that ‘Engineering is off limits/Science is hard’ starts from when children are at a young age. Part of this is teaching and demonstrating the applicability of Science and Maths in a fun way in schools and at home (I mean, his 4-year-old daughter knows what a non-Newtonian fluid is!).
One of the questions Dr Morgan asked was how many of us in the room knew at least one engineer as children. I was quite surprised at the number of hands in the air. I think that shows the subtle but very important influence visibility as a female engineer can have on children and the wider society. Thanks to Dr Morgan and this conference, I will be taking more advantage of the opportunities to engage with children and teachers during STEM outreaches in schools.
Moyo Adenmosun (Chemical Engineering -final year)


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