OTW - Speaker Spotlight, Sarah Chapman

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Sarah Chapman, Technical Manager & North Europe STEM Champion, 3M, about her career.

Sarah is also one of our speakers at our upcoming One Tech World conference on 01 April 2022. Sarah will be discussing how stars and streetlights can illuminate diverse STEM careers

In her talk, Sarah shares the latest findings from 3M’s State of Science Index, showing that science is giving people hope for the future, and says that there has never been a better time to encourage more women and girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). She believes that the key to this lies in diverse, authentic role models who tell stories that relate science and technology to our everyday lives, creating a spark in a young person’s mind that lasts a lifetime. She also explores the representation of women in the STEM industry and, by sharing her own career story, explains how skills such as creativity, communication and collaboration are just as important as technical qualifications.

A technical manager at global science company 3M and corporation board member at Farnborough College of Technology, Sarah was described as a natural dancer growing up and initially pursued a career in ballet.  Injury and an inspirational chemistry teacher led to a change of direction and she went on to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).  Since graduating from the University of Southampton, with a first-class degree in Chemistry, and joining 3M as an application engineer, she has won multiple awards for her work as a STEM volunteer and diversity role model. She enjoys using her scientific skills in a collaborative, commercial environment and has held a variety of technical roles at 3M including approvals administrator, technical service engineer, regulatory specialist and build project manager for a multi-million-pound Customer Innovation Centre.  She currently leads an international team of application engineers within the Industrial Tapes and Adhesives Division.  As a mum of young children, Sarah is a passionate champion and role model for flexible working.  She is a gold level #IamRemarkable trainer and speaks publicly on the importance of diversity to drive innovation.  Sarah chairs the 3M EMEA Technical Women’s Leadership Forum and is the STEM Champion for 3M North Europe.  Globally, 3M has pledged to create five million unique STEM and Skilled Trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.

This year, we are going to be bringing you the very best global virtual learning experience on a state-of-the-art conferencing platform. Our conference will provide ample opportunities to learn about emerging technologies and what is innovating and disrupting the industry. We are blessed to be given time from some of the world’s finest speakers who will be joining us to share their wisdom and knowledge. We will deliver innovative sessions on a variety of different areas of tech, with a side order of career development, fireside chats and ample networking opportunities, both on the day and through our global virtual networking world.

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Join us for keynotes, panels, fireside chats, networking opportunities and much more. Supported by 18 corporate sponsors, with over 120 sessions and 160+ speakers across 6 stages – plus watch it on-demand for 30 days!


Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?  

Growing up I was told I was a natural dancer; no one ever told me I was a natural scientist! I took chemistry because my dad said it was a difficult subject and I wanted to prove I could do something different.  It was only when a teacher who had worked in industry explained how she had used chemistry to keep the taste consistent in a well-known fruit drink, despite differences in the harvest, that science became relatable to me, and applied technology has been a passion ever since.   

Before moving into technical management, I worked as an application engineer, regulatory specialist, and project manager so I have done a variety of roles but always technical – I love the problem solving but have found softer skills like collaboration and communication, are just as important as the technical ones.  

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To a certain extent – but rather than planning detailed career steps, a mentor once gave me a simple one-page template which I have used ever since and share with all my mentees.  It documents what you love to do, what you dislike, what your verified strengths are and what you are looking to do more of.  It’s a useful tool to refer to when opportunities present and helps you better communicate your aspirations to people who can help you in your career.     

What inspired you to get involved with motivational speaking?

Diversity drives innovation and innovation gives us hope for the future – that is why I am a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM and take any opportunity to encourage women and girls to pursue careers in tech.    

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

Managing the design and build of the 3M Customer Innovation Centre – it brings science and technology to life and is a very inspirational space.   

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

At the conference I’ll share results from 3M’s State of Science Index, showing that science is giving people hope for the future.  I will also talk about the importance of diverse, authentic role models who tell stories that relate science and technology to our everyday lives. Role models can be stars that shine brightly overhead and give us something to aspire to. But, just as important, are the streetlights – those role models and mentors closer to home who hold our hands and help us take the next small step. I hope that the audience will find the insights from the State of Science survey interesting and that it will inspire them to be stars or streetlights for others.  

Find out more:

What are your top 3 tips for success? 

  1. Have more than one mentor – they can all teach you different things  
  2. Be visible and different – look for opportunities to stand out 
  3. Write up how you will cite something on your CV/appraisal/Ta-Dah list – before you have done it – it will help you to prioritise and gain clarity 

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?  

Confidence – I have Imposter Syndrome every time I start something new, especially given my unusual journey into science.  The #IamRemarkable workshop really helped me to understand why I feel like that and why it’s important that women don’t let it hold us back.  In fact, I was so inspired that I trained as a facilitator.   

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

I have a pretty long list of inspirational mentors, sponsors and role models collected over a fifteen-year career but one of the public figures that inspires me is Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE.  This is not because she is an amazing space scientist (I am a chemist and generally more interested in zooming in on things than big picture space stuff) but for her work in STEM outreach. I love how she makes science accessible and relatable.  She presents the BBC programme Sky at Night and talks to schools about the power of dreams.  She describes herself as “a dyslexic black kid from a council estate” and she is not afraid to be herself.  Whilst on mat leave, I watched a talk online that she did whilst cuddling her baby daughter – it was a refreshing antidote to the endless images of stressed-out working parents.    

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Lack of visibility and access to relatable role models and sponsors.  I believe that everyone needs stars and streetlights – stars to inspire us and show us what is possible – and streetlights to guide us and help us find a path through the everyday challenges, like balancing work and home, speaking up with confidence, preparing for promotion and finding sponsors.   

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Wider access to affordable, flexible, high-quality childcare.   

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I remember Claire Vyvan from Dell gave a talk to our tech forum around the time I was returning from my first maternity.  Something she said stayed with me: “Have no regrets”.  Change things if you need to or can but don’t waste time or energy on regret.  Make the best of your situation and enjoy the journey.   


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