Krystina Pearson-RampeeareeI am a Senior Flight Systems Engineer at BAE Systems, based in Warton as part of the Air business.

In my seven years at BAE Systems, I have worked across a wide variety of aircraft projects and have been involved in the design and development of a range of flight-critical systems.

Currently, I’m working on Tempest, the project aiming to develop the UK’s Future Combat Air System. To be involved in the planning of the various flight possibilities of the future is incredibly exciting and something I’m very proud of.

I am also a mother and I had my first child in 2019, which inspired me even further to show young girls that they can be both great mothers and great engineers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve definitely had an idea of what I wanted to do for a long time and have been lucky enough to have built a career in the field that interests me.

I always really enjoyed maths and physics at school, but it was an air show I went to with my family when I was younger that really sparked my interest in what I do now. The speed and sounds of those jets amazed me and I knew that I wanted to be involved in that somehow, so started to look into a career in aerospace when I went back to school the following term.

My school was very supportive and from there I went to university, where I graduated from the University of the West of England in Bristol with a Masters degree in Aerospace Systems Engineering.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge has probably been the realisation that there are not many people like me in the field I love. At university, for example, I was one of only two women on my course. This was quite daunting initially, and although it turned out to be a great group of people once I got to know them, it can be an intimidating atmosphere for women to face.

I overcame the challenge because of the people on that course – I even went on to marry one of them – but the issue of a lack of diversity across the engineering industries is one that persists. My  personal experiences have galvanised me to push for change, particularly when in comes to encouraging young women into an engineering career.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m proud of so much that I’ve achieved already – I’ve worked on some fantastic projects, including Tempest, where we have the opportunity to collaborate with engineers from across the globe that are the best in their field. I’m also proud of the way I have balanced my life as a mother and an engineer.

Another achievement would be the launch of my own side business, AviateHer, during the first lockdown last year. The initial idea was to sell a range of pin badges I designed to celebrate and promote diversity in engineering, but this has since expanded to various careers in STEM. In just a few short months, I was shipping these pins worldwide.

Part of the proceeds from each sale is donated to charities working towards improving diversity in STEM. So far, the business has raised over £1,000 for these charities. As a personal achievement, I couldn’t be more proud, but more importantly it is spreading the message that STEM is changing and is open for everyone.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think it’s important that I followed my passion. As someone who has been interested in maths and physics from a young age, as well as engineering and then specifically aerospace, I wasn’t going to let the barriers or negative stereotypes about my chosen career route affect my thinking.

I know you only asked for one thing, but alongside this, despite a lack of diversity in my sector, I’ve received plenty of support from those around me – from my family to my school, to those on my course at university and in my work at BAE Systems. After giving birth, I was able to keep ambitiously pursuing my career by returning part-time and working flexible hours to help balance work and home life. This level of support should be the norm – women should never have their careers suffer for just being a woman.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

First and foremost, as the AviateHer badges try to express, anyone can be an engineer, a pilot, a scientist, a coder or anything else in STEM – don’t think you don’t belong just because you don’t fit into the stereotype of what someone in these industries looks like.

I also think it’s incredibly important for young people to evaluate all the options available to them. My school was very supportive of my career ambitions, but there wasn’t much guidance available on the different routes available in aerospace. So, do your reading and try and get as many different points of view as possible. Higher education worked out perfectly for me, but for others, apprenticeships might be a better option. Make sure not to pigeonhole yourself and explore which of the various options available are best suited to kickstart your career.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Absolutely, there are still barriers for women in tech. Things might be slowly improving, but there’s still a long way to go. There are plenty of misconceptions about what an engineer should look like and what we do and that probably scares off quite a lot of people right at the start

One of the main challenges is changing these misconceptions and making it clear that careers in engineering, and tech more generally, vary greatly and there are roles that suit all sorts of people and skill sets. If we highlight the diversity in STEM and champion the voices of successful female tech workers, we can hopefully change the narrative.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

One of the ways companies can support women in technology is to provide mentoring programmes. I’m a big advocate of mentoring, having been a mentor and mentee myself. Support for women when they return from maternity leave would also be hugely beneficial, to help prevent women from having to choose between career or family.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

If I could wave a magic wand I would make sure that women were involved in the decision-making. By bringing women to the table, giving them a voice and empowering them, we will create a more inclusive environment that will benefit everyone.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Podcasts I’d recommend are Women Tech Charge hosted by the inspirational Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon and How To Own The Room for some great tips on speaking!

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here