Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK

Dr Emma Taylor’s 30 year career started with BAE Space Systems’ sponsorship for her studies at Oxford.

Over the next seven years, she worked on space missions, including research on materials retrieved from the Hubble Space Telescope. Recruited from her PhD to the European Space Agency, she ran novel computer simulations for the International Space Station.

As a Principal Engineer, she led R&D on resilient spacecraft structures, and an ISO standards team of space agencies to protect Earth orbits. In parallel, Emma was a carer for eight years, leaving her university academic post for a career break. Retraining as a system safety engineer, winning a university scholarship and research prize, she then worked in O&G, including as Operations Manager.

A 2018 Telegraph Top 50 Woman Engineer, and a WISE Woman in Industry Finalist, Emma worked as Lead Systems Safety Engineer at RSSB, advising on safety, risk assessment and standards. She worked to enhance understanding and implementation of security and cybersecurity within transport, including data integrity of a mobile app and a cloud-based safety-related reporting system.

In this article, WeAreTechWomen sit down with Emma to discuss what happened since winning a TechWomen100 award and how she became involved in a career in politics.

I am proud to be one of the TechWomen100. This year in January, I listened to Vanessa Vallely, Jacqueline de Rojas and Chi Onwurah speak at the TechWomen100 awards dinner. To be honest, I felt a little overawed. Inspired too, but I definitely felt as if I was in the presence of superwomen.

And yet only a few months later, after a career of more than 25 years in science, technology and engineering, I have an emerging role as a politician. I am campaigning for election to the European Parliament on behalf of Change UK, our new UK political party. As the lead MEP candidate for the East of England, I’ve definitely had to put my own superwoman cape on.

Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK

But what’s my story? How did I come to stand as a candidate for Change UK?

I think that, whatever your political beliefs, many of us have been concerned about what’s been happening in politics recently. It’s fair to say things haven’t been working as smoothly and efficiently as many of us would like – politics is clearly broken! It’s worrying people, including my French mother, who has lived here for 50 years.

So when the call came out from Change UK for people to apply and campaign become Members of the European Parliament (MEP), I did listen. I wondered whether I should stand up. I worried about all the online trolling and worse. Could I step up to the challenge? Was I brave enough to try?

But, as an engineer, I like fixing things to make them work better. And as someone who works in tech, I know that engagement with Europe is key in fighting the emerging threat of cybersecurity. I also wanted to find a way to reassure my mum, and this was certainly one way of doing it.

So, I wrote my application in one sitting at the computer, one Sunday afternoon. Less than a week later, I walked into the room and met Sarah Wollaston, one of the Change UK MPs interviewing me. By that point, I’d heard that there were more than 3700 applications so I was taking it one step at a time with no expectations.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt, sat on the sofa with my cup of tea, when I took that call from Sarah less than 48 hours later. What to do? And so I accepted the number one slot on the East of England list. I realised that this new party, with a call to change politics, offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to stand up and see what I could to do to help fix politics.

Next day (!), the 23rd April, was the campaign launch, broadcast on national TV. The campaign started at full speed and has been at full throttle ever since. You’ve probably read about it in the national media, you can see my personal campaign story on my Twitter feed (@etaylorengineer).  One thing I am am 100 per cent sure about is that I couldn’t have taken this challenge on without the boost that my We Are The City Techwomen100 award gave me.

I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, if it’s before the election date on the 23rd May, or afterwards. I can’t predict the results, but I know that I’m proud to have taken the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in.  And maybe I’ve inspired others to take their own bold steps? Because if I can create this opportunity and take on this challenge, then you can too.

In a nutshell, if and when you are lucky enough to win a TechWomen100, Rising Star or other WATC award, you’ve got your own little piece of superwoman in your hand. Use it wisely, and the sky’s the limit.

Emma Taylor is part of a team of seven candidates standing for election as a Member of European Parliament; including Neil Carmichael, Bhavna Joshi, Michelle de Vries, Amanda Gummer, Thomas Graham, and Roger Casale.