National Engineers Week takes place this year from February 29th until March 6th. The week-long festival of nationwide events, of which Intel is a proud supporter, celebrates the world of engineering.
National Engineers Week is coordinated by Engineers Ireland STEPS programme which is the only national full-time STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) outreach programme with a focus on engineering. Intel Ireland recently announced that they would continue as a key strategic partner of the STEPS programme throughout 2020 with Engineers Week as one of the key activities of the partnership.
Engineers play a vital role in the Intel workforce, operating at the heart of our cutting edge manufacturing and design activities around the world, and we are proud to celebrate our many engineers as part of National Engineers Week.
To coincide with the week-long celebrations, we caught up with Ann-Marie Holmes, Vice President, Manufacturing and Operations and Factory Manager of Fab 24, to find our about her experiences in engineering;
1. Why did you decide to become an engineer?
Engineering to me was a very practical course. I could see how studying engineering related to the job that I might ultimately do at the end of my studies. In Trinity College, where I studied engineering, I did a combined approach in the first couple of years so I was able to look at the various different types of engineering; electronic, mechanical, computer, civil and so on, so I got a chance to see in that first couple of years what really suited me best.
2. At what age (or stage of your life) did you start to think about becoming an engineer?
I suppose I could go back to when I was in 5th or 6th year in secondary school and I was very fortunate that I went to a school that taught honours maths and actually the curriculum allowed us to do physics, chemistry and biology as choices. So, in my 5th and 6th year I studied all science subjects and sat them for my Leaving Cert. Really, that helped me choose an engineering career and set me on that path.
3. Who or what was your greatest influence?
My mother has been a very key influence and inspiration in my life. Hands down she has absolutely taught be the most invaluable lessons, such as, don’t ask somebody to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself, be loyal and value loyalty. These are things which I consider extremely important lessons for anybody, at any level, at any age.
4. What skills do you need to become a good engineer?
Engineers rely upon a broad set of skills but if I had to focus on just a few I would certainly say that critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, being able to work with other people and having resilience so that the problems you are faced with become something that you like to solve. These are the attributes that I value in our engineers.
5. What can be done to encourage more people, and in particular young girls, to explore careers in engineering?
In many cases girls can feel that engineering is not a career they can have for life. That it is not a career that they can take on whilst also having the flexibility to do all the other things they might love and aspire to. I think this is partly because young girls don’t see many examples of women engineers in the world around them and if they can’t see it, they may often perceive that they can’t be it. We need to do more to ensure that engineers are visible as role models for these young girls and that a career as an engineer is a relatable role for everyone. We need to challenge the stereotype that exists around engineering.
Being an engineer at Intel allowed me to be able to adopt my career to different phases of my life and I want to be able to showcase that to the next generation.
6. What is your favourite thing about your job?
It is the people that I get to work with. You are posed every single day with what might seem like an impossible challenge but then you see these people giving their brains, their hearts and their souls – and the problem suddenly becomes solvable. The impossible becomes possible. It is the greatest privilege to be able to work together with others to create technology that changes the world and shapes the future.
7. What excites you about the future of engineering?
The world is changing at an unbelievable pace. I know that when I left school most of the jobs that are available today simply didn’t exist and that will continue to be the case into the future. Engineering is always evolving and is at the forefront of invention. Engineers solve the problems of society and they artfully work to bring something new about. That’s exciting. How could you possibly not be excited by that?
8. What has surprised you the most during your career as an engineer?
What has surprised me most is that I don’t think we have ever encountered a problem that we didn’t solve. With enough commitment, time, hard work, ingenuity and resources every problem has been something that could be solved and that’s incredible. This has perhaps been my biggest learning – that everything is solvable.
9. Achieving gender parity in engineering is viewed as critical. Do you think women bring particular skills and insights to engineering?
I think that it is really important to have gender balance at work and that different characteristics brought by both genders enhance the working environment. At Intel we recognise this and are committed to improving the representation of women in technical roles. We have a number of strategies in place to deliberately and continuously focus on this objective because society is 50% women and 50% men and I cannot get my head around why we can’t have 50% women in our technical workforce. When we don’t have that kind of representation it means we are leaving on the table skills, inputs and perspectives that would likely give our company a better result. We are trying to solve problems for the full population of the world but at the same time not unlocking the potential of almost half of the population of the world – which doesn’t make sense.
Ultimately, when you have a team that is more balanced, you stop isolation, and when you do that it allows people to be included, to bring their unique contributions and to bring their very best to solving a problem in every situation.
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