To mark International Women In Engineering Day that took place on 23 June, Silverstone Park highlighted two successful women, role models, working at the heart of high-tech engineering.
Pauline Dumont, aged 28, is a Development & Integration Engineer with Delta Motorsport, and Renette de Villiers, aged 29, a Design Engineer with Performance Projects.
Both believe engineering is one of the best career options available for women because of the problem solving it requires and the results it can achieve in the wider world…
For example, Pauline’s past and present jobs – many involving software development – have included test driving electric vehicles over a famous European mountain range.
Renette has helped refine the interior lay-outs for luxury car brands and designed complex steering wheels for 200mph sports racing cars – including arranging the many controls and their mechanisms.
Pauline says: “I would love to see more women in engineering. We need to break the misconception that engineering is for men and that an engineer is a geek.
“Engineering is a great career choice because our job is to make the world a better place! You can choose a topic close to your heart and work in that area.”
And adds Renette: “Getting young women interested in the engineering industry is something I am very passionate about.
“This is not an industry reserved for men, and if any young girls are interested in solving problems and being at the forefront of developing new technology then nothing should be in their way of achieving that.”
After gaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Engineering and Mechanical Engineering respectively in her native Belgium, Pauline then achieved a master’s in Automotive Mechatronics (mechanical and electrical systems) at Cranfield University in the UK.
She explains: “Then I started as a graduate with LEVC (London Electric Vehicle Company) based in Coventry working on hybrid taxis (London ‘black cabs’).
“This was testing powertrains; so fixing issues with the engine and powertrain software to make sure it’s put to good use for the taxi drivers. It even meant test driving the taxis myself.
“One time I drove one through the Pyrenees from Spain all the way back to the UK. A harsh test for the taxi, but also a cool thing to do!
“I moved to Delta 18 months ago, joining the catalytic generator team. My role is in integration which means figuring out how to fit the machines we develop to the clients’ vehicles – that’s mechanically and also how it is being controlled and used in the vehicle.
“There’s lots of variety. I’ve worked on a ‘hypercar’, and marine and defence vehicles. The defence one was quite stringent – we’re talking about a vehicle that climbs a 60% slope.
“Right now I’m carrying out an integration study of a catalytic generator into a customer’s vehicle which will be a full-time project through to October.
“A lot of my work is computer based – software and coding. But you also need good communication – a clear understanding with the customer about what their needs are and what the boundaries are between our systems and theirs. You want to deliver the right application for them.”
Renette’s story is not dissimilar. She is from South Africa and it’s there that her interest in engineering began – aged seven!
“My father bought my brother a Meccano set, but also had the wisdom to get me one as well…” reflects Renette.
“At first I studied engineering in South Africa; then came and studied Advanced Motorsport Engineering at Cranfield – I actually know Pauline from there!
“Previously, I worked for a company that designs automotive interiors for mainstream brands – quite often, I’ll get into a car and either appreciate or get really frustrated at how things look, feel and operate!
“I’ve been with Performance Projects for just over two years, working on mechanical design which involves 3D ‘CAD’ design work on a laptop or PC and understanding what the mechanical solution should be – in other words, designing parts and assemblies that are suitable for the project…
“Project-managing the design of an electronic, autonomous (self-driving) tractor was very interesting, as it meant liaising with different companies about supply of parts and things…
“A lot of my time now is going into motorsport steering wheels, mainly for use in GT3 competition. There are lots of different components involved – carbon fibre, classic metal-machined bits, rubber grips, electronics.
“People don’t realise what goes into it – getting the design and lay-out right is like solving a big puzzle. For example, there are lots of buttons so you’ve got to find the right place for each one so they make sense to the driver, the engineers and the rest of the car …
“The work with Performance Projects is varied so really enjoyable, but maybe one day I’ll specialise in one specific area. Engineering certainly gives you skills that can be transferred to other industries which is a big thing these days.”