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INWED21 Q&A: Fully charged careers at WAE


Female engineers from the Advanced Battery Team at Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) discuss what they do at the company and what inspired them to pursue a career in engineering.

Meet the panel

Dr. Nasrin Shahed Khah, Senior Battery Systems Engineer,

Melissa He, Battery Systems Engineer

Rachel Lear, Battery Systems Engineer

Give us an insight into what you do at WAE?

NS: I’m a Senior Engineer in the Advanced Programmes team. Our team develops WAE’s battery capability, which includes everything from cell selection to testing and optimisation; ensuring we’re meeting the client’s requirements with our battery systems.

MH: I currently work for WAE as a Battery Systems Engineer in the Advanced Battery Concepts group where our role is to expand the limits of battery technology through the development of smarter battery architectures and control systems.

RL: I’ve been at WAE for approximately a month now, working as a Battery Systems Engineer. I spend a lot of my time focusing on different aspects of battery development activities; but primarily with cell testing requirements.

WAE
L-R: Rachel Lear, Melissa He, Dr. Nasrin Shahed Khah

Prior to your career in engineering, as a female, what was your perception of the industry compared to what it is now?

RL: I come from a scientific background and during my degree there was a relatively good ratio of male-to-female students. I had female friends who were engineers, but most were in a minority on their courses which is why engineering is probably still perceived as a very male dominated career choice. Despite the headline statistics, I would say, don’t let that put you off pursuing engineering as a career.  I work in a team where we have a 50/50 split of male-to-female, which is great and regardless of gender, the important thing is the way in which you work together to deliver successful projects. If you have the required skills, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be applying for any job. Personally, I’ve always been welcomed into teams and whilst women might be a minority now, as more of us study engineering, so more women will become engineers!

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Do you feel you’re a role model for the next generation?

NS: I hope so! All the members within our team are very driven and passionate about what we do and more importantly, love our jobs. When I joined in February 2019, I was the first female within the team, and my manager supported me, grew my confidence and helped me achieve my goals and progress within the team. I hope I can do the same for the next generation of engineers, whatever their gender!

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What advice would you give to any prospective female students looking to enter the industry or a similar role to you at WAE?

RL: I would say don’t worry if you don’t have a fixed career in mind. Be guided by the things you enjoy and by doing so, you’ll find it will lead you to the right career path. Electrification is a hot topic at the moment so there are lots of opportunities for careers in battery development.

NS: I think what got me here was determination and knowing what I wanted to achieve. Determination is key to being successful and achieving your goals. But I agree with Rachel, the most important thing is finding what you love, the thing you enjoy doing. Follow your passion, chase your dreams and it will happen. Never be afraid to ask questions. If you want to be an engineer, I’d say do it – all of our team love what we do.

What’s a typical day in your job?

Every day is different which I love. I could be doing anything from cell selection at early stages of battery programmes to overseeing module and battery pack activities from concept design to production refinement. I also support the safety elements of our current and upcoming battery projects at WAE. I really enjoy the variety of the work, whether I’m at my desk managing project delivery, or in the battery build facility overseeing practical work.

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MH: My typical day is not really typical! Within such a small team, we cover a wide range of work and that’s one of the things that drew me to WAE; working on a number of  different projects – from e-bikes and racing scooters to race cars and mining trucks!

What was your inspiration for going into the industry in the first place?

RL: The battery industry has had a lot of media attention recently, so I think this made batteries an interesting area for me to explore. While I largely “fell” into the battery industry, the excitement of new electric vehicles and technologies makes me want to stay.

MH: For me, it was the technology.  During my undergraduate studies , I participated in a competition to hybridise a Camaro and was hooked. Following experience in the automotive industry with electric vehicles and leading the work on an electric Formula Student car, I knew there were so many interesting problems left to solve.

NS: I have always grown up with a passion for cars and problem solving and so I wanted a career where I could  combine  both. I believe we’re now at the cusp of a technology revolution with engineering at the forefront, which has allowed me follow my dream and do what I love.

International Women in Engineering Day – June 23 – is an awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. It also celebrates the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world. The event is organised by The Women’s Engineering Society.



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