Group Captain Emily Flynn joined the Royal Air Force straight after graduating from her MEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering course in 2001, and has recently been promoted to Station Commander at RAF Brize Norton. She shares her thoughts on encouraging women in STEM, having a pioneering parent and how Bath helped her dreams take flight.
“My mother was an engineer in the Air Force, and she was a bit of a pioneer. She got her degree in the early 1970s so, as you can imagine, she really was the only woman. I think that gave me an awareness in terms of deciding to study engineering – the great thing about having a mum who was also an engineer was that it very much normalised it for me. It was always something I saw as open to me and never occurred to me that it was unusual for girls.
“I’ve just arrived as a Station Commander at RAF Brize Norton. I'm an Engineering Officer by background in the Royal Air Force, and my role at Brize Norton is as the commanding officer of the base. That means I provide the airports for all our air mobility force assets, and also provide support to all of the units based there. It's quite a large base – about 7,000 people work there every day. It’s almost the size of a town in itself.
Extracurriculars to excellence
“By the time I went to university, I already knew I wanted to join the Air Force so I joined the University Air Squadron. I got to go flying and had a load of fun – it was a great time, and there was no commitment to join the Air Force afterwards. But because I knew I did want to join, I then applied for sponsorship, so for the last two years of my four-year degree, I was lucky enough to be sponsored and have a job waiting for me at the end of it.
“I was really lucky that both the degree I had done and the University Air Squadron had provided me with a great launching block in terms of my interests and where I wanted to be. I then went straight off into officer training after I graduated – six months of officer training and then six months of engineer specialist training, which gives you the engineering management skills to apply your knowledge in the Air Force.
“I'm from near Glasgow, so it was a it was a big change for me to go all the way down to Bath, but I was attracted by its academic reputation, particularly in engineering circles. It's a beautiful city, and as a hockey player and a mountaineer, I was really attracted to the sporting side as well. It was the perfect place to be a student. I grew an awful lot in the four years I was at Bath. The training I had developed the leadership, interpersonal skills, respect for others and engineering standards that we require in the Royal Air Force. Those four years through university are preparation for life, I guess for all of us. It certainly worked for me.
A career for everyone
“Engineering is an absolutely wonderful career – everything that you look at every day has an engineer behind it. It's brilliantly creative, brilliantly challenging and will open career paths for you that you won't imagine. It’s a career for everybody – it’s crucial to making the world function.
“I now approach it that if I can inspire one more girl to follow a career in STEM, then I've done my job as a role model. And I want them to look at me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too.’ So for the girls out there who are considering engineering: don’t just go for it, but be a role model and encourage other women to study it, too.”