Movers and Shakers | Kerrine Bryan | Principal Electrical Engineer
Tell us about your current role.
My core role is as a Principal Electrical Engineer, where a typical day will consist of 2 or 3 meetings ranging from manpower planning and work scheduling to technical meetings with clients, suppliers and other discipline engineers. Some time is spent responding to emails, letters or minutes of meetings and also checking design documents produced by the team, e.g. technical reports and calculations.
Projects can range from a few months to a few years and over the course of a project other responsibilities involve international travel to witness equipment testing at supplier factories, and time on site to hand over the design to the construction team.
I am currently on secondment as a contract development manager which involves preparation of bid proposals and sales strategy and planning.
After a busy day in the office I will usually start working on Butterfly books on the tube journey home, checking emails and coming up with new ideas. In the evenings I do a catch up with other team members who are working on the books.
What were key decision points or factors that were important in deciding your career path?
I had no idea what engineering really was until after I had already decided pursue a career in Accounting. I had already started A Levels in German, Maths and Economics. During that time my A Level Math teacher encouraged me to go on a one week residential at Glamorgan University, introducing students to different fields of engineering and I soon became hooked.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work as an engineer and the key points that kept on on that path were that every day is different and I have never stopped learning.
As I progressed in my career in to managerial roles, I decided that as well as the technical background, I needed to improve my business awareness. I completed an MBA in 2010 and felt that the role as a contract development manager was the perfect way to build my business awareness as well as commercial skills.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
In my current role I am able to see the bigger picture. I have a better understanding of the impacts of engineering decisions on the organisation as a whole and also gain a better understanding of the oil and gas industry. It is completely out of my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoy learning aspect and building on my skills.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
Being a young(ish) black woman in an industry that is dominated by older white men, you stand out from the crowd. When working with international clients or suppliers with different cultures it can be strange to them to be working with someone who doesn’t fit the norm. I find that proving my abilities usually helps!
What has been the most defining moment in your career to date?
Becoming the firm’s youngest principal engineer.
Best piece of career advice you have ever received? And who was it from?
“Don’t ever think that you know everything, you can always learn something new. “ this was from my mentor.
Away from your work role what are your passions?
I have a passion for educating youngsters on what engineering is really about and am aSTEM Ambassador, visiting schools and colleges to talk about what I do as an engineer. This was a reason for starting Butterfly Books.
My two main hobbies are dance and Taekwondo and these hobbies have also helped me along my career path. Through dance performances I have built confidence and through training to become a first Dan black belt in Taekwondo, I have built self-discipline, drive and respect for others.
What are the three (professional or personal) books/websites/ or resources that you would recommend?
For me the best resource is networking, panel events and attending conferences. This way you get to hear real stories that you may relate to and the bonus is that you get to ask questions to go into more depth and further relate the discussions to your own experiences.
What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?
If you have a question, ask it, it is likely that other people are wanting to ask the same thing.
Do you have any advice for women entering your industry?
There is such a huge skills gap in engineering, so there are many resources and support organisations that will help you along the way. Only 6% of engineers are female but that definitely shouldn’t put you off. It’s such an exciting career that I don’t think anyone would regret going into.
Kerrine was the winner of the Outstanding Woman in STEM Award at the 2015 PRECIOUS Awards.