Mechanical Engineering

Sorria Douglas knew she wanted to go into a technology or science-related job – she just wasn’t sure what exactly until she took an online questionnaire which highlighted mechanical engineering as a possible career choice.

Sorria, now 26, didn’t even know what mechanical engineering was at the time, but she thought it sounded interesting.

After watching videos and contacting universities for information on their related courses, she enrolled at the University of Derby and studied Mechanical Engineering (BEng Hons). She was one of only five females on her course – out of 100! Here she shares her journey and why she thinks more women should consider a role in her field.

How I Got Into The Industry

After discovering mechanical engineering from my research, I instantly knew that this was something I wanted to do. I loved how varied the university course sounded; I’d get to learn about things like thermodynamics, thermo fluids and machine design. I also liked the fact it was rooted in maths and science, which is something I’d always enjoyed since school.

My first lecture at The University of Derby was relatively daunting as I didn’t initially see any other females. This led me to wonder if I was the only one on the four-year course, but it turns out there were five of us in total. While this might have been a concern to other people, it was not a deterrent for me. We instantly gelled and are still friends to this day!

Throughout my degree, I particularly enjoyed the problem-solving element and how the course challenged me; it was exciting to work through a variety of situations and discover the most effective solutions. In my last year, I decided to specialise in mechanical design that focused on 3D and 2D modelling machinery allowing for a better visualisation of features and components of an overall build.

I was so happy when I received 76% in my dissertation (which involved designing and developing a novel wind turbine that could be used in a rural village) and was awarded a First Class Honours for my degree overall. It really cemented the fact I’d chosen the right career path.

Graduate Recruitment in the Engineering Market

Due to the competitive nature of the graduate market, I began looking for employment during my dissertation. I felt lucky to land myself a role at a local company, but a few months into it I knew it wasn’t for me; I gave it a bit more time then left after a year.

After browsing LinkedIn one afternoon, I saw a job advertisement for mechanical design engineer role featured on STEM Graduates. Once I knew the company hiring was L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation within the Nottinghamshire area, I was really excited as the company was developing quickly and worked on a range of projects. I also liked how there was an existing pool of engineers there that I was able to learn from.

I am the only female engineer at L.A.C Conveyors and Automation. It’s something that the company raised during my second interview as they wanted to check whether I’d feel comfortable within the environment, which I appreciated. Growing up with three older brothers, two older sisters and completing a male-dominated degree, I responded with something along the lines of  ‘I’m quite used to it and I wouldn’t be bothered’.

I’ve now been working at the company for three months and not one single person has made me feel less and everybody has been warm to me!

What I Do on a Day-to-day Basis

I have a lot to learn but everyday I’m learning something new, and I’m excited about my future here. During my day-to-day role, I am usually designing components for client projects, which I was put on straight away. I loved having the extra responsibility, though it was somewhat nerve-wracking. I also ensure the designs are sent  to the manufacturer and oversee the assembly of the projects being built.

Working for such an innovative company provides a wide range of learning and progression opportunities (and equal opportunities for men and women). One thing I find really exciting about L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation is the work it does in the AI and robotics industry, which is a hot topic at the moment. The diversity of the work also provides me with the opportunity to expand my engineering knowledge to include electronics and control engineering.

Why More Women Should Consider A Career in Engineering

It’s undoubtedly an exciting time to be involved in the engineering industry. Every skill learnt is valuable and there’s a constant demand for fresh minds to keep developing ideas. 

The issue with women in engineering (or lack of) seems to be a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Women need someone who they can look up to in the industry, but in many places that doesn’t exist. I think if we educated children more on STEM in primary and secondary school, you’d see an increase of females going into the industry. As mentioned, I didn’t even know what mechanical engineering was until I’d finished my GCSEs! At school, woodwork and bricklaying was offered, but from my experience it was always boys on those courses, which I understand can put girls off.

There’s so much you are able to do with engineering; it’s a field that’s interesting and ever-changing. If you’re into science, technology, maths, enjoy being challenged and want to make a real world impact, then engineering could be for you!

The industry itself is starting to make progress, but it’s slow. I recently spoke at a women in engineering event, for children aged 12+, and was asked a lot of questions about gender diversity in the industry and how I felt about it. It was so nice being able to respond, honestly, that I’ve never once felt out of place or treated differently by my male colleagues.

Sorria Douglas L.A.C. Conveyors and AutomationAbout the author

Sorria Douglas joined L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation in July 2019 as a Junior Mechanical Design Engineer in the Automation division. Over the last ten years, L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation has grown rapidly to become one of the country’s leading and versatile conveyor companies.