Senior Process Engineer, Alcon Laboratories
The collaboration, teamwork and problem-solving involved in working as an engineer make it an attractive career for STEM minded girls.
Fiona Griffin, a Senior Project Engineer with Alcon, was interested in STEM subjects at school. Her father, who was an engineer, was an early role model; and she was keen to follow in his footsteps. She studied biomedical engineering at university as this was an area where she felt she could make a difference to people by improving healthcare technology.
She is based at the Alcon plant in Cork, which employs 500+ people engaged in research, development and the manufacture of optical implants used when people develop cataracts, the world’s leading cause of blindness.
Role models needed at all levels
In the workplace, Fiona feels energised by seeing what other female engineers, at a similar career stage, are achieving. Seeing female engineers at a more senior level demonstrates to her that success at a high level is in fact achievable. The Women in Leadership group at Alcon provides further support and inspiration.
Fiona advises both women and men interested in a career in STEM to find a mentor early on.
Fiona says that men can also support women engineers in the workplace by listening closely to their ideas, acknowledging their contributions and giving them an equal voice in the discussion. Listening to everyone in the room helps everyone learn.
She works in the manufacturing engineering side of the business, which sometimes involves the development of cutting-edge machinery to enhance the existing manufacturing processes. This involves managing people, technical concepts and the logistics of getting equipment onsite and installed to meet production needs.
Find a mentor to support
Her advice for women in STEM is to believe in themselves and their abilities more, not to hold back when interesting positions arise. Push themselves to put their name forward, even if they don’t have everything the role requires, they should still go for it.
Fiona advises both women and men interested in a career in STEM to find a mentor early on. There are lots of STEM companies running internal mentorship programmes; and she has personally benefitted from both male and female mentors that have challenged her and given her new insights.
Fiona would like to see even more girls consider a career in STEM and wants them to understand that these jobs are very interactive. They involve collaborating with a variety of people, working in teams and developing solutions together. She says she’d like young girls to understand that engineering is about solving problem together in teams and finding solutions that benefit society.