Renee Ffrench, Coryton

Renee Ffrench is a Fuels Technician at Coryton. Driven by its mission to create a better future, Coryton supplies specialist and renewable fuel solutions to a range of forward-thinking customers.

As a leading supplier of bespoke fuels, Coryton’s team of experts tailor make over 4,000 unique blends each year. Fuelling everything from race cars to jet planes, it’s created a range of pioneering products to globally recognised standards. Coryton’s Sustain brand focuses on developing responsible and sustainable fuels that contribute towards the push for net zero impact.

Combining world-leading chemistry, collaborative partnerships and a passion for innovation, Coryton is dedicated to developing the most advanced fuel technologies in the world.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I attended the University of Greenwich, where I graduated with an integrated master’s degree in Chemistry. After completing my degree, I took a year out of work to bond with my daughter who arrived ahead of my graduation. Once a year had passed, I knew it was time for me to start focusing on developing my career and that’s when I saw the job post for a Laboratory Analyst at Coryton. I applied for the role and one month after the interview I was an employee.

After two years working in that position, I was promoted to Fuels Technician. This saw me progress from testing the fuels to designing them. Alongside my main role as Fuels Technician, I am a qualified First Aider, Fire Marshal and a representative for the department on the Health, Safety, Environment and Quality board.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve never planned my career as such, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to love whatever I did. I didn’t want a job just to pay the bills. So, I let my passion and talent guide me.

In my school years, I had no clue what path to take. But then I got the highest grade in my year for GCSE chemistry. I thought to myself ‘wow, I’m good at this! Let’s take this further’.

At that point I knew I wanted to do something in science, possibly become a doctor. Sadly, my A-Level results didn’t lead me down this route. But my focus stayed on science. And, as chemistry was my best subject, I decided to study it at University.  Even after graduation, I still didn’t know what my career path would be for certain. I did, however, have a better understanding of my options and the potential career paths open to me.

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

One of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced in my career is my dyspraxia. Having a learning disorder that affects hand-eye coordination can make me a naturally clumsy person and it impacts my literacy skills. Overcoming this just takes patience and practice. With the right techniques in place, you can complete tasks with more confidence and accuracy as you progress. Being a part of a company that supports you and offers assistance is also really beneficial.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think my biggest career achievement so far has been the promotion from Laboratory Analyst to Fuels Technician. It was a change that I had to adapt to very quickly. I work in a developing field with lots of opportunities and there’s lots to learn. But I now get to design fuels rather than just analyse them which is a really empowering and interesting experience.

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

My daughter. She motivates me to be someone that she is proud of. For her I persevere, always pushing the boundaries of my abilities to surpass my expectations. As a woman working in STEM, I also hope to open up more opportunities for her to explore in this field (should she wish to) in the future.

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

I have my own take on the phrase ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’. It’s ‘a jack of all trades and a master of some’. To me, to succeed you need to be useful, resourceful and open. If you can master your choice of expertise but also expand into other areas, you’ll avoid limiting yourself with tunnel vision. Opportunities come from all angles. With foundation skills in a range of areas, and an open mind, you can quickly grow and discover an all-new career path you never saw before.

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

I do believe there are still barriers for women in tech but I also believe that one of the best ways to overcome this is to challenge them when you see them. This might be easier said than done, as sometimes opportunities to do so are gone before you even had the chance.  But, if you want to, you need to be prepared to make your case with facts, backed up by the quality of your work.

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

Support from companies is always welcome. But, for me, it’s more about recognising and acknowledging women’s contribution and talents. It’s a give and take relationship between the company and the employee. The rewards and recognition provided by a company has to be reflective of the individual’s work.

There are currently only 21 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?

I’d like to see a shift in stereotypes. The world often paints a picture of people working in science and technology as ‘geeks’ or ’nerds’ with a lack of social life and hobbies. It’s a sector that’s boxed off and considered ‘uncool’. I believe this false image can act as a deterrent for young people, especially women, to get into science and technology. In reality, this image is far from true. The science and technology sector is constantly creating cool and life changing innovations. The opportunities to create something ground-breaking is so exciting and the industry’s image should reflect that.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I always recommend networking. Get yourself out there, talk to people and find out what you need to know. In doing so, you’ll also be leaving a mark on them. Share your knowledge, support and connections in return and people will remember your name.