Friday, 14 July 2017

Natalie Lamb and the Future Female Engineers 2017

I received an email yesterday, the TARGETjobs Events Summer Newsletter, which gave me a bit of an insight into how some people have progressed since attending the same event as me earlier in the year. So, I thought I should talk about my experience at the Future Female Engineers Event 2017.

The Application Process
I thought the written application for this event was pretty standard. I kept my answers truthful and to the point. For example, I wanted to attend the event because, although I am a postgraduate student and this event is designed for undergraduates, I am new to the world of engineering and wanted to meet some people in the same sort of situation as me. One piece of advise I would give is to keep your answers to the questions so you have them ready prepared for the next stage of the application process.

Part of the application process was a telephone interview, which I was surprised at because I had never had an interview to attend an event before. But, actually, I found it to be really good telephone interview practice because I have not done one in a long time, so I was quite nervous. Also, the interview really forced me to properly research the companies that were going to be present on the day. I researched all of the companies and found out how they contribute to improving water quality, my area of interest. My first choice of company was Laing O’Rourke because they designed and constructed Australia's first potable water recycling plant and I was very interested in that (although I did practice saying the name a lot so I would not get it wrong on the phone!).

The telephone interview lasted 10-15 minutes. I knew it was going to be this short but I was surprised when it actually was. I had mine on 22nd February so it is normal to have it just a few weeks before the event.

The questions centered around:
  • Your motivations to work in engineering
  • Your work experience and achievements, related to your engineering motivations
  • Which companies you want to meet
  • Your reasons for wanting to attend this event

As well as your answers to the questions, they were also paying close attention to how you answered the phone (e.g. Good morning, this is Natalie Lamb speaking),  evidence of your interpersonal and communication skills, the questions you asked them, that you know which companies are attending and that you have an awareness about the sector in general.

When you find out if you are successful, you are encouraged to email questions for the panel so they have time to prepare answers before the event. The panel at my event included 6 female technologists from: ARUP, BP, Laing O'Rourke, Mace, Skanska and Wates. Topics such as: work life balance, ambition, strengths and weaknesses, things they wish they'd known as an undergraduate, top tips for people in your position, funny moments from their careers etc.

The Event

Pre 11:30 Waiting in reception
Before the event began was a good opportunity to meet some of the other students that were also at ARUP headquarters in London, for the day. There were 65 in total so that's a lot of people to meet!

11:30 Welcome
A welcome by TARGETjobs Events explaining the format of the day

11:45 Guest speaker: Patricia Johnstone, ARUP
This talk was very much about Patricia's career pathway. She said that one of the most important skills that she uses is project management skills. It is vital that the whole team knows the goals of that team and that they are encouraged to speak up if they have better ideas. One piece of advice that Patricia said was that you can't do it all. I thought that was really encouraging because I am often doing some serious multitasking! It's better to do one thing well than many things halfheartedly.

12:15 Lunch and networking
A more formal networking opportunity with the other attendees, although I found it difficult to eat, drink and maintain conversation!

1:15 Team challenge: Work alongside fellow attendees in a session designed to showcase teamwork, decision making and communication skills
This part of the event was very much like a group assessment at a job interview. We were put into groups and given a task but really the potential employers were interested in, not our performance, but our ability to work well as part of a team. This was the time that you could really make an impression on the potential employers.

2:20 How to get hired skills session: A chance to speak directly with recruiters about the application process and the skills required to succeed in the engineering sector
This section was very specific to your two chosen companies. For example, Lang O'Rourke said the following:

  • Go over and introduce yourself at the start
  • They get ~5000 CVs a year! So do not use your CV to state the obvious e.g. I am hardworking or to add your address
  • The CVs get viewed by the area applied to, not just a general HR department
  • In the cover letter, say who you are and what you are doing (do not just repeat the CV, expand on it)
  • In the online test, questions get harder as time increases so try not to panic if you find yourself getting stuck
  • Do some practice psychometric tests, such as cut-e , SHL or TalentCube
  • If you get extra time in university exams, make sure to get it in application tests too
  • In the group assessment, show evidence of time keeping, inviting others to join discussions, verifying instructions, ask others for their thoughts
  • Follow up after the interview with a thank you email

3:35 Insider insights: Meet graduate-entry representatives and find out first-hand what their day-to-day roles entail and how you could follow in their footsteps

4:15 Panel discussion: Ask senior female representatives questions about what life is like at the top of the ladder and how they achieved their success
The representatives were:

  • Wendy Tipper, Associate Programme Manager, ARUP
  • Polina Zabelina, Project Engineer, BP
  • Rachel Morris, Project Engineer, Lang O'Rourke
  • Grace Ayre, Programme Manager, Mace
  • Linda Colman, Head of Design Management, Skanska
  • Helen Bunch, Managing Director, Wates
The panel were not recruiters and so were not able to answer questions about applications or what makes a good candidate or which skills they look for. Instead, they spoke about their careers and lives. The questions asked were mostly those selected from the pre-event emailed questions. Your lanyard had your question on and you had to stand up and ask it.

Some of the challenges the representatives faced in their careers were: keeping people connected outside of technology, legislation and increasingly demanding health and safety. But the piece of advice that resonated most with me was to notice the little, daily successes and don't feel stuck in a particular place, explore different industries. 

5:00 Event wrap up: A summary of the day from TARGETjobs Events, including a chance to complete feedback and travel expenses
You had to bring your expenses with you to complete on the day.

5:15 Networking drinks: The final opportunity to network with all sponsors
I would definitely attend this part of the event again, if I was to redo my day at this event. The time went really quickly. Even though I did not have time to talk to all the employers I had wanted to (the time went very quickly), there were still plenty of attendees that I had not even met yet throughout the day.

6:00 Event end

Reflection and Future Events

Overall, what did I think of the event? I thought it was excellent and I would definitely be interested in going to a similar event again. I learnt an awful lot about interviews/application forms/assessment/interviews, about what engineering jobs on a day-to-day basis are like and how experienced people got to their positions. In particular, the latter was of interest because it feels very embarrassing to ask those sorts of questions to someone who you know. I really enjoyed meeting the other attendees. I was worried that I would really stick out, as one of the only postgraduates there, but actually I felt really welcomed. I felt as though I was able to teach the others a lot (e.g. what academia is like) and they were able to teach me a lot (e.g. what being an engineer is like, the sort of projects they do etc.).

I think it would have been more helpful in my final year but it was a massive confidence boost to feel a bit ahead of the game! If I am lucky enough to attend again, I would really like to try better to exchange details with other attendees to better follow up with them after the process. Although getting my catch up email yesterday was a really nice catch up.

If you are interested in attending future events, pre-register for them on the TARGETjob website and follow their social media. I recommend it!

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