International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) - Interview with Alderley's Sharon Marsh, Senior Metering Engineer

23 June 2021

Happy INWED day!  In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) we’ve interviewed Alderley’s Sharon Marsh, a Senior Metering Engineer, for her thoughts on the importance of women in STEM and why the day is such an important date in the calendar.  We hope you enjoy the interview and Sharon’s fascinating insights. 

1. Sharon, what made you pursue Engineering as a career path?

At school, I took the subjects I enjoyed the most, and at A level took maths, physics and chemistry. When looking for a degree I wanted to do something that would use all three subjects and chemical engineering seemed to fit, even though I didn’t really know very much about it at the time!

Doing an industrial year during my degree, which allowed me to put theory into practice, confirmed that this was something I wanted to pursue as a career. I enjoyed the fact that every day was different and presented its own problems that needed to be solved.

2. What is it like to be a woman in Engineering?

Although there are still fewer women than men in engineering, I have seen a huge change for the better in my 25-year career as the gender balance shifts. I am very comfortable with being a woman in engineering and there are now many women in very senior roles in engineering organisations. This shows that gender no longer affects ambition or opportunities. Women also have different perspectives to problems, and are therefore valuable members of any team.

3. What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career choice/study option?

There is currently a great need for engineers – these engineers will be behind a lot of the innovations that help solve major issues, for example:

  • Pollution control to protect the environment
  • Lifesaving medical equipment
  • Low-cost building materials for fighting global poverty

I would say to a female student considering their career choice that engineering gives you the possibility to design something that matters.

Engineering is not just about the traditional areas such as cars, bridges and power stations. There are a huge variety of interesting opportunities available. If you enjoy the science subjects do some research on what industries engineers are involved in and you may be surprised with what is available.

Engineering will present you with the opportunity to be creative, think analytically and solve problems, it will challenge you every day, which I have always enjoyed.

4. What does a Metering Engineer do? What does a typical day in your job involve?

My role as a metering engineer involves so many different things and any, indeed, many of the things listed below will be part of my typical day:

  • Producing P&IDs, sizing equipment, design calculations including uncertainty calculations, pressure drop and reliability
  • Interpreting and ensuring compliance with international and client standards
  • Conducting design reviews and safety reviews
  • Supporting sales and proposals
  • Attending client meetings
  • Answering site and commissioning queries, supporting the service department

5. Progressive engineering is fundamental to delivering for the global energy industry, what kind of things are Alderley working on to innovate and digitalise the heart of its business?

Alderley are working in several areas that will improve the global energy industries impact on the environment:

  • Produced Water Treatment cleans up the water by products from oil production, to ensure that the water is clean enough to be returned to the sea. Alderley is always looking to improve its technology in this area
  • Hydrogen could potentially be a solution to net-zero home heating. Alderley is working on designing hydrogen metering skids, which would form a part of the hydrogen distribution network.
  • Globally people are looking at carbon capture and storage schemes, where CO2, which otherwise would have been emitted to atmosphere is captured and transported for permanent storage underground. Alderley is working on CO2 metering skids to accurately measure the CO2 that is captured.
  • Alderley is developing Smart Metering solutions that will perform condition-based monitoring, identify the impact of equipment failures on the uncertainty of the system and provide critical data to all those who need it in a format that is most relevant to them. It will also enable remote monitoring and diagnostic capability, which will reduce the need for visits to site and therefore reduce travelling.

6. What made you choose Alderley? And why is it a great place to work?

When I applied to Alderley, I had just moved to the Gloucestershire area and was looking for a job that could use the skills I have developed in the air separation industry. In addition, I had two young children and being a small firm they were able to offer me the flexibility to work three days a week, which was a real benefit to me at the time. There are two main reasons I have stayed at Alderley

  • The People – when you have a tricky problem to solve, my colleagues are always there to offer advice and help, that includes people from across all our sites.
  • The Challenge – every day is different, I can be involved in research on new products, capital projects, site and commissioning questions and IIOT (industrial internet of things) developments.

7. In your opinion, why should people choose Engineering in the energy industry? What advice would you give someone looking to start out their career in this field?

People are always going to need energy to power their lives, but what we need to do is develop ways to produce this energy with minimal impact on the planet. As an engineer in the energy industry you will have the opportunity to push these technologies forward and deliver practical, cost effective solutions.

My only advice would be there are so many opportunities out there, be it in innovative start up companies or multinationals, so do your research and find the job, product or industry that interests you. One of the best things at work is being able to be proud of something you have done or produced.

8. What inspires you about Engineering and what are your hopes for its future?

One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing the physical end product manufactured after all the design work everybody has put into it. It needs input from so many people, in multiple areas of expertise, to get to that end product.

I hope in the future that engineering will continue to deliver the small incremental improvements, and massive innovative leaps that will contribute to society moving forward. I also hope that engineers will be recognised for these contributions.

9. What do you look forward to each day as part of your role?

I am repeating myself, but the best part of my role is that it is something new every day and I never know what questions are going to come across my desk that day.

10. How important is INWED (International Women in Engineering Day) on 23 June in raising awareness of the opportunities for women in engineering?

I would hate to think that any women are put off engineering because they cannot see the opportunities that the discipline presents. Engineering is not going to be for everyone but gender really should not get in the way of your ambition. For any girls interested in sciences we need to allow them to see the huge amount of different career paths within engineering and to encourage them to give it a go. INWED will raise that awareness and will give women options. 

Let’s celebrate INWED day this 23 June!

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