Today it’s International Women In Engineering Day, a day when the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and the UN come together to celebrate the achievements of women in a whole range of technical disciplines.

At Liberty Global we’re passionate about making sure everyone can access opportunities. But we know that women are underrepresented in technical roles. That’s down to a number of causes: whether old-fashioned views of gender roles in the workplace or the fact fewer girls and young women study science, tech, engineering or math (STEM) in higher education than men.

Our company’s at the forefront of widening access and we’re doing great work. Our Apprenticeship schemes are bringing more and more brilliant young women into tech. But there’s always more to do, and raising awareness is important.

As Chief Technology & Information Officer for Virgin Media, this is something I’m really proud to support and, along with the WES, #transformthefuture.

Below, are interviews with four Liberty Global women, who share their insights into what a career in STEM within our company means to them.

 

Maria Thompson

Can you tell us about your role?

I’m a Field Service Technician. My job is to create memorable experiences for our customers in the Plymouth area – whether that’s fixing a fault on their broadband, telephone or TV, or installing a new service.

How did you get into engineering?

Engineering wasn’t something that I’d ever considered before this job. Previously, I was a paediatric nurse for four years, but I was looking for a new challenge. It was really important that I could keep active, not be based in an office and have the chance to progress.

That’s when I saw Virgin Media’s Calling All Women ad. At first, I didn’t expect I’d get it, as I didn’t have any technical experience. But the recruiting team said they were looking for personality – someone who is great at communicating and giving customers the best experience – and they could teach me the rest!

On my first day my boss handed me the keys to my van – I was so nervous as I’d never driven anything so big before! But now I love driving it.

What do we need to do to get more women into engineering?

The job ad attracted me as it’s tailored to women. If it hadn’t been then I don’t think I would have applied. Articles like this, where we’re raising awareness and showcasing the types of jobs women are doing in the field, really help too.

Thinking of this year’s theme #transformthefuture –what would you like to change in the future?

It would be great if we can get to a point where we don’t need to have tailored ads to get women into engineering and customers aren’t surprised that it’s a woman engineer at their door.

 

Sue Steggles-Cole

Can you tell us about your role?

I’m Virgin Media’s first and only female Head of Build for Wales and the South West and manage a team of about 25 engineers. Put simply, we dig up streets to put in broadband for our customers. However, often the reality is much more complicated and requires lots of news ideas and forward thinking. It’s a bit like playing with Lego everyday but on a larger scale and who doesn’t like Lego?

 

How did you get into engineering?

I studied a mining degree at Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall and completed my masters in Computer Science at the University of Bristol. Initially I focused on computer programming, as a university lecturer and later joined Openreach where I built the largest data warehouse in the UK at the time. I’ve always been driven by what’s exciting and challenging. So when the role came up to roll out broadband and build a legacy for the future, it was an opportunity too good to miss. Over the last 10 years I’ve been focused on network build and I’m really proud to have delivered broadband to over 15 million premises in the UK.

 

What’s your experience of being a women in engineering? 

You have to be a certain type of person, as it’s still a male-dominated industry, you will come across people who may underestimate what you can do. So it’s important to stand your ground and make sure your voice gets heard.

 

But it’s not just being a woman. I also have a rare bone disease and some of the challenges you face when you have a disability can even be more difficult. That’s why you have to remember to believe in yourself and know that whatever path you want to follow you can do it.

 

What do we need to do to get more women into engineering?

Engineering can be an exciting roller-coaster where the unexpected can happen every day. So to get more women into engineering, we need to focus less on your technical experience and focus more on the type of person you are. If you are driven, want to make a difference and can manage tricky stakeholders and look outside the box to overcome challenges, it’s a great career for you.

 

Who or what has inspired you?

As a disabled person, I’ve always been inspired by Stephen Hawkins, you look at what he has achieved despite the severity of his disabilities and can’t help but be amazed and want to achieve more.  As a woman, I worked for a really inspiring female managing director who got me into broadband and she is still my mentor today.  From an engineering perspective, I grew up in Cornwall, when I was younger I can remember being in awe of The Royal Albert Bridge across the River Tamar by Brunel and I always thought that when I grew up I’d build houses or bridges. As it turns out I’m building networks instead!.

 

 

Monika Nowak-Toporowicz

Can you tell us about your role?

I’m one of four Chief Technology Information Officers in the T&I organisation. I cover Slovakia and Poland. I manage about 300 people; about 10% of the team are women. My goal is that 30% of the team are women in the future – but I’m a realist.

What is your background?

When I was younger I wanted to be a psychologist. I studied biology and chemistry at school, but realised I was better at maths and physics. I went to University in Poland and graduated with a computer science degree.

I started as a Network Engineer in a Polish bank and spent lot of time in banking and finance. I didn’t realise what a big change it would be going from finance to telecoms.

I’m extremely extroverted. In my heart, I enjoy working with and meeting new people. As we evolve to become more digital, it’s more important than ever to build strong relationships – digital will never completely replace people.

What’s your experience of being a woman in engineering? 

When I started I thought I had to be doubly good as a man. I believe it’s all about self-confidence. Unfortunately, young girls don’t always believe they can do it.

Before I joined Liberty Global, I’d been a Network Engineer for two years and I went for a new role in engineering. The hiring manager at that company wouldn’t talk to me because I was a woman. I called his boss and got an interview, but at that point I knew the role wasn’t for me. That experience was a great motivator.

Six years ago, I created ‘Engineering Technology Wears a Skirt’ with a group of friends – an NGO (non-profit organisation) with the aim of driving self-confidence and diversity in IT and Engineering. We created a programme of mentor and mentees, which are made up of 50/50 men and women.

If someone is wondering whether a role in engineering is for them, what advice would you give them?

Go for it! It’s absolutely for you. There’s a lot of flexibility with engineering roles – you can work mornings, nights and there’s great mobility too. It’s interesting and you can have stability. You get to meet people from different countries and cultures. You’ll never be bored!

Stacey Dunnne