Women in Engineering
Celebrating International Women's Day with Intertek automotive engineers, Megan and Giulia
08 March 2022
To celebrate this year's International Women's Day, we sat down with two Intertek colleagues in our Transportation Technologies division, Megan Douglas, UK Process Improvement Engineer, and Giulia Olearo, UK EV Test Manager. We discussed their experiences working in engineering and in the automotive industry, as well as how we can inspire more women to pursue a career in these fields.
An introduction to our experts
Megan Douglas, UK Process Improvement Engineer, started her career studying motorcycle maintenance and repair, before undertaking a degree in motorcycle engineering. Following the completion of her degree, Megan joined MAHLE as a Graduate Engineer, developing her skills in product design, build, and testing, equipment calibration, thermodynamics and analysis, as well as performance and emissions. Megan progressed to become a Mechanical Facilities Engineer with MAHLE where she worked on a range of internal combustion engine (ICE) projects, as well as helping to develop and maintain test rigs. In 2019, Megan joined Intertek as a Process Improvement Engineer in our UK Transportation Technologies division, supporting the EV Services and Operations Director to implement cross-service improvements to operational efficiency, safety and quality. and Operations Director to implement cross-service improvements to operational efficiency, safety and quality.
Giulia Olearo, UK EV Test Manager, holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's in mechatronic engineering. Giulia began her career in the wider transportation sector, first joining Faiveley Transport (Italy) where she worked on validation, simulation, and problem-solving activities for railway products, with a focus on EMC/EMI electronic products validation and homologation. Later, Giulia joined Kubota Tractor Corporation (France) as a Test Engineer working on the complete lifecycle of a product test project, before being promoted to Test Lead where she managed a team of engineers and acted as technical advisor for all testing activities. In 2020, Giulia joined Intertek as EV Test Manager, supporting the delivery of Intertek's Global EV Centre of Excellence, and managing and developing the team of engineers and projects at this new state-of-the-art testing centre.
How did you get into automotive engineering?
Giulia: After achieving my engineering bachelor's and master's degrees, I'd gained skills across automated systems and robotics, along with a mix of hardware and software type technologies. As a result, I started my career in transportation more generally before later transitioning to the automotive industry as it's the most regulated field in engineering, along with military and aerospace. When you want to apply a certain level of quality and generally want to be part of a matrixed organisation, automotive is the place you look.
Megan: I kicked off my journey into the automotive industry after studying motorcycle mechanics at college. When I finished in 2008, there were limited opportunities due to the recession so with my skills in maths and science, so I decided to carry on and study motorcycle engineering at university. However, there is a limited amount of motorcycle development in the UK, so that prompted me to look at the automotive industry more broadly and that's where I've been ever since.
What is the best part of working in the automotive industry?
Giulia: Especially in the last few years, with the rapid transformation of electric vehicles, working as part of such a cutting-edge field that moves very quickly constantly keeps the job fresh and exciting. Technologically speaking, there are many new innovations in powertrain technologies, whether that's battery-powered, hydrogen, or fuel cells, these new technologies are constantly evolving. What has always excited me about this industry is actually seeing the final product at the end; often in other fields, such as micro-electronics, you work on such small components as part of a much larger team, so you never really see its final application. So, the automotive industry is great in that sense, especially powertrain technologies.
Megan: I agree with Giulia, it's very rewarding to see the final product following a project you've worked on from the development phase through to production. Even if Intertek isn't necessarily mentioned in the press releases and marketing from the company, you know you had a part to play in developing that vehicle so it's very exciting to see its reception in the market.
What skills do you believe are vital for someone in your roles?
Giulia: I believe that you need skills that aren't just specifically mechanical or electrical, and that having a broad view and understanding of the vehicle as whole is just as important. This applies even if you are working on a small component or part of the overall vehicle, it's better to have a system engineering understanding of the vehicle itself.
Megan: Whilst the technical skills and knowledge are key to the role, which everyone learns at university, I believe developing the softer skills such as communication and teamwork are equally important. You often find that people coming out of university very focussed on what they know but learning from others and being able to successfully communicate is key.
Have you seen increasing interest from women wanting to work in automotive engineering?
Megan: Personally, I wouldn't say so yet. Whilst there has certainly been an increase in companies wanting to get women involved with these specialisms, I don't think we're seeing more come through yet. However, I do think that it takes time for this to develop so I do feel positive for the future.
Giulia: I tend to agree. When I studied engineering, I was the only woman in a class of 80 people. However, I do think that women tend to be drawn more to the software technologies side of STEM subjects at the moment. For instance, I've seen more women working in tech companies than in the hardware side. Personally, I think this could be for a number of reasons starting with upbringing in the home about what activities daughters are encouraged to get involved with. But I do see that changing now. Additionally, I think there's a lack of role models for women in automotive engineering. Certainly, there are ever more female leaders but often not in technical fields, so I feel without these role models it could lead women to still overlook our career path.
How have you seen automotive engineering evolve over time?
Megan: I think people are becoming increasingly aware of the broader mix of skills that you need now, and that it's not just about mechanical and electronic engineering expertise. Also, as Giulia said, software engineering currently seems to be more attractive to women out of the STEM options. However, with the broader mix of skills being taught in universities, colleges and schools, that will help attract more women to automotive engineering too.
Giulia: Like Megan says, there is certainly an attraction for software, research and development environments, start-ups, and tech companies, but definitely less interest in automotive still. I think this is also linked to a lack of representation for minority groups in leadership roles. I think an increase in diversity across these senior roles would encourage women and other underrepresented groups to engage with these specialisms and improve diversity across the industry.
How do you feel automotive engineering could improve its attractiveness to female engineers?
Megan: I think it needs to start at the earlier levels of education. By the time a company is looking to attract and engage women in these specialisms, it's no longer about what the company can offer from a career perspective. Certainly, getting young girls and women involved with STEM programmes at an earlier age would be very beneficial to try and attract them to the industry. When a company is trying to reach women at 23 or 24 years old and leaving university, it's too late in my opinion; you need to get women involved much earlier on so they can see and understand automotive engineering as an exciting and viable career option for them.
Giulia: Yes, I certainly agree with Megan. Getting young women involved in STEM activities earlier on, such as in primary school, with some practical lessons would be a huge help in encouraging and engaging them more with the practical side of scientific studies, research and development sciences, engineering and mathematics.
What advice would you give to young women at school, college, or university, who are interested in engineering but don't necessarily know the right career path?
Giulia: I would encourage women to be bold and take risks. Be bold and don't be afraid if you don't see anyone like you in the industry you're interested in. Be part of the change, because you could also encourage the next generation of women to get more involved too!
Megan: I absolutely agree. Just because what you want to do is typically dominated by men doesn't mean you can't to do it too. Don't be afraid to go after your passion and give it a go because there is no reason that women can't do it too.
Intertek Transportation Technologies: An employer of choice
Intertek's UK Transportation Technologies team offers a broad range of automotive career opportunities. Across our UK sites, we have test facilities covering a range of specialisms include internal combustion engines, electric and hybrid vehicles, fuel, additive and lubricant products and more.
Find out more about how you can join the Intertek family.