Amy Featherstone

Inspirational Woman: Dr. Amy Featherstone | Innovation Lead, Kensa Contracting

Amy Featherstone

I’m actually very new to the world of renewables, and have only been working in the field for two years.

I was a climate scientist before my role with Kensa Contract Ltd, working on reconstructing what climate was like in the past so we can more accurately predict the future. I started off in Kensa as a Grant Administrator for the Energy Superhub Oxford project before being promoted to Innovation Lead and helping establish a new research department. As part of this role, I’m helping develop the next steps in achieving net zero and carbon reduction, while also being able to speak to the people who have switched out their old inefficient systems with new Kensa systems. I get to not only see the benefits through models, data, and design changes, but I also get to speak to residents who are warmer over the winter than they have been before and are saving money on their bills, giving them a better quality of life.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did sit down and plan my career. I’ve had the same career plan since I was 8 years old. When I achieved my PhD, however, that was where the planning ended. I follow the expected academic route for a bit, but I felt a bit adrift and uneasy with my personal development. I felt like I wasn’t changing anything, about myself or the world around me. That’s when I applied for my first and only industry position, which was completely off-piste of any plan that 8-year-old Amy could have dreamed.

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

I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced is going from being highly knowledgeable and skilled in my field of choice, and having to take a step back and adapt those skills into a new position. Learning what a heat-pump was, how they work, and how to make them better, was a big leap compared to the work I did before.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I was recently promoted to Innovation Lead at Kensa Contracting LTD. As this is a blossoming department in the company so I get to build it, and the team, up from the ground. I think this will be something I look back on with pride, throughout my career.

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

I have a fantastic support network, both in Kensa and out of it. My family and husband are always pushing me to be the best of myself, and my colleagues are the same. In Kensa, we all seem to have the same drive, so there’s a lot of support to achieve the next big project or personal goal.

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

I think my number 1 top tip is that if you feel uneasy, whether that be because of the workplace itself or because or the work you’re doing, don’t rest on it. If you feel like you’re stagnating, push yourself to change it up.

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 and until more women are promoted to positions of power within tech companies, prejudice will always be there. Women are still more likely to be paid less than their male counterparts. Maternity leave is still holding people back from professional growth. However, the gap is closing and we’re gaining ground. It’s not all doom and gloom, but the fight isn’t yet over.

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

All women want is equality. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can speak to my boss and my colleagues as a person, rather than a woman. They talk to me the exact same as they do each other. I get the same workload and I’m held to the same accountability. I’m not given work that falls out of my job scope just because I’m a woman, such as planning events. These are all things that other companies can do to ensure they’re treating women the same as their male counterparts.

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?

It’s not just that there are less women working in tech, but also studying tech (or being apprentices) before entering the workplace. In 2017/2018, only 35% of STEM students in higher education were female. For both computer and engineering scientists, only 19% of students in the UK were female (UCAS data provided by HESA). A CSU study found that 1.5times more women than men dropped out after studying calculus due to a ‘lack of confidence’ (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0157447).

I think there’s just less support for women to be in these positions, and that starts from university or even earlier. Almost every person I know who was AFAB, at one point, has been assigned to a gender role, whether that be told about ‘boy and girl toys’ or told by their teachers to pursue a more traditionally feminine career. I like to think this is changing, but it will take time for the figures to reflect that. If I could wave a magic wand, it would be to give every woman who’s thinking of studying a STEM degree, or taking a STEM-related apprenticeship, the confidence to go do it.