Career profile: From travel agent to Head of Operations

Louise Morley is the first female Head of Operations in her company’s 140-year history. She tells The Engineer about her career to date: the challenges, the triumphs, and her hopes for the future of women in engineering ahead of INWED24.

Louise Morley, the first female Head of Operations at ClydeUnion Pumps
Louise Morley, the first female Head of Operations at ClydeUnion Pumps - Celeros Flow Technology/ClydeUnion Pumps

Tell us a little about your employer

ClydeUnion Pumps are a pump manufacturer with a proud heritage. They are based in Glasgow, Scotland, and can trace their origins back via the North Sea oil & gas boom in the 1970s to shipbuilding on the Clyde in the 19th century. Today we are part of Celeros Flow Technology, and our flow control solutions are used around the world in safety-critical applications in industries such as oil & gas, water, nuclear and renewable power generation.

What does your role as Head of Operations entail?

Essentially, I oversee the company’s operational activities, including the machine shop and assembly, while ensuring the workforce are productive. I head up a team of 64 people, with direct reports whose remits cover operations, manufacturing, and service centre functions. Working closely with other areas of the business, my team and I are responsible for ensuring we deliver on time and to the correct quality. We seek to continuously improve efficiencies and drive operational best practices through the business, while striving for excellence.

When did you first become interested in engineering as a career?

I came into the profession quite late! I spent 12 years as a travel agent and after starting a family I was keen for a new challenge. Therefore, I took a temp role in the planning department at ClydeUnion Pumps. It was my first experience of an engineering company, and I loved learning about compliance and the different components that make up a pump.


From there, I moved into a permanent role in project management and took an APM qualification. Although I got to travel again – working in Dubai on a large project overseeing the commissioning and installation, I realised that learning about the pump equipment side was what really motivated me. So, I successfully secured my first cell leader role in operations and gained further knowledge and experience of centrifugal and reciprocating pumps. Then I spent a couple of years at our Plenty Pumps Hillington site learning about other pump types, including screw pumps.

So, you had a smooth career progression?

Only up to a point. I wanted to gain further qualifications to support my personal development. I turned 40 in 2020 and thought ‘if I don’t do this now I never will’ and enrolled at Strathclyde Business School. Studying and working full time was a real challenge on top of family life – but it paid off. I graduated with a degree in Business Management in November 2023. Securing the Head of Operations role shortly after that was a real achievement.

What barriers face women wanting to become engineers?

There are still too many assumptions about engineering being the province of men, as though it is ‘not natural’ for women to want to get their hands dirty, solve problems or mend things. No-one ever suggested engineering as a career path to me, so I believe education from an early age is key. Girls still don’t understand all the options that engineering offers – from the typical engineering roles to design, project management, finance, or marketing, we offer multiple opportunities for all.

Do you think positive discrimination is the answer?

Positive discrimination doesn’t work, in my opinion. You have to pick people on merit and who will be an asset to the team, not because they fill some arbitrary quota. There has to be a good fit for both employer and employee. That is how you build a positive, nurturing culture where people of any gender can thrive. There are certainly no hard numbers for a percentage of females in the Operations team here!

What skills do you think women can bring to engineering roles?

I think women are generally better at the soft skills and communication. We can be better at reading the room, which means we can bring emotional intelligence as well as practical solutions to the table.

What positive changes have you experienced in the workplace?

When I returned to ClydeUnion Pumps, they had just become part of Celeros Flow Technology – but the difference in culture was already apparent. ClydeUnion Pumps was very rooted in its Scottish heritage, which is important, but can limit your outlook. Celeros Flow Technology is an international player and encourages us to think globally. It also has a strong set of values – one of which is accountability for yourself and for others.

As a result, I believe the company is now more willing to champion women and diversity. It’s evident in practical ways, such as sourcing PPE that is designed for women, and considering gender-neutral toilet facilities.

What could we all do to encourage more women engineers?

Respect everyone’s views equally and be supportive. I believe if you show others respect and dignity you get it back. I also believe that as women we have got to be our own role models: get into schools and talk to other females, sharing and discussing the possibilities that engineering offers for a rewarding and fulfilling career.