Rebecca Johnson (2002) and Rachael Graham (2006) joined us online for two exceptional Careers Week presentations on Day 4.
Rebecca is a geotechnical engineer on a mission to inspire more girls and women to get involved in the field, which is heavily male-dominated. She began by looking at various professions that can stem from an interest in Geography and Geology. The twenty-strong list included becoming an Engineering geologist, a Paleoecologist, Minerals surveyor and ‘Ross from Friends’, which sparked a laugh from College girls in the audience. She explained what piling is and went on to look at examples of pilings from Roman times through to the Shard, a project which Rebecca had worked on in her professional capacity.
“Geotechnical engineering is the foundation of the entire construction industry,” she told the girls. Every project is different, because every building has a different geology, even if they are next door to each other. Rebecca’s career has taken her to other countries, including the USA and Australia. “You’ll spend the next 40 years of your life working, so you might as well enjoy your career,” she said.
Rachael is a leader in the telecoms sector, delivering major strategic and operational change on national and international scale. She was a finalist of the FDM Everywoman in Tech awards, and listed for the Women of the Future award. She led a team of 200 engineers, despite not being an engineer herself, to deliver fibre optic cable to over 3 million people. “Improving connectivity through infrastructure helps to enrich people’s lives,” she told her audience. Now that connectivity is achieved wirelessly instead of through cables, the industry has again become more exciting.
Rachael felt that the fact she had not studied engineering meant that she could avoid being pigeonholed in her career. She encourages girls to keep their options open, be guided to study what interests them because there are always other routes into an industrial sector. “So often women are encouraged to emulate men in the workplace, but actually our biggest attribute is that we are different to them.” When collaborating, she likes to work with those who have diverse views which help find alternative ways of achieving goals.
She would advise her teenage self to have more confidence in herself. “I loved The Mount and it gave me a great foundation,” she said.