My father would tell you that my interest in telecommunications began when I was a teenager and spent many a day holed up in my bedroom with the phone glued to my ear; this is not strictly true. During my days of studying at Balliol (1995-9) I was fortunate enough to receive a sponsorship from the company formerly known as Cable & Wireless Marine and due to this involvement I started to develop an interest in fibre optics and its use in telecommunications. Hence after I went down I sought out a career in international submarine systems engineering. My work involved all aspects of “EPIC” projects - engineering, procurement, installation and commissioning. Spending time both at sea and on land I worked all over the world, testing cables between Australia and New Zealand, installing the first fibre optic cable between Hawaii and Fiji (during a military coup no less), and leading the commercial team to negotiate a new system between the UK and India.
More recently I moved into managing engineering teams and then transferred into operations & maintenance of cable systems, looking after the worlds most advanced transatlantic cable system, Apollo SCS Ltd. As the Operations Director I had to make sure the cable system was continually up and running, and servicing our customers as per their requirements.
My position always afforded some time to complete research and hence it has been a pleasure to write and present white papers at various international conferences. I have always enjoyed writing and as a sideline during the period 2005-09 I wrote a regular column in the Work supplement for The Guardian, which in turn led to other opportunities such as speaking on Radio 4 Woman's Hour. At the moment I am enjoying a career break with 3 little budding engineers at home, but am still involved with the university's engineering alumni via the Society of Oxford University Engineers.
As a woman I have been the only female on a ship for 3 months and the only female in meetings for several years, but I can definitely say that this has never been an issue for me or my career. The industry is changing and there are more and more women in the engineering workplace, both at the bottom and the top of the ladder.