No hurdle too high for a career in engineering

3 min read

Born and brought up in Luton, Elin Esnard, 22, Third Year Technical Apprentice at aerospace engineering company Leonardo, is thriving at the organisation as one of their top performing apprentices, with glowing reports from her supervisors.

But beyond the obvious signs of her professional growth and performance, she is more proud of the personal growth which led to it.

Elin attended Barnfield South Academy in Farley Hill in Luton and had always intended on going on to university inspired by her mother, who had studied Geography and Education at Warwick University. However, it was at the time of her A-Levels that she first received a diagnosis of dyslexia.

Elin said: “At high school I had been quite academic. My GCSEs were good and my school pushed me into going towards university, taking me to conferences in London and events for Oxford and Cambridge. At that point my grades were good enough to consider going there in the future and that was the only reason why I was ignoring all the signs that this may not be the best choice for me.”

Leonardo
Elin Esnard (Image: Leonardo)

But as the weeks progressed an inconvenient truth was emerging. For years Elin had managed her undiagnosed dyslexia on her own and receiving a formal diagnosis brought it to the front of her mind, sapping her self-confidence and affecting her concentration.

Elin explained: When I couldn’t sit my A-Level exams and get the results I had hoped for, I felt really stupid, unintelligent, a failure and that I wouldn’t do anything with my life. All my friends had gone off to university and I didn’t feel worth anything.”

Her mother, Vikki Powell, felt convinced that this was not a cause for undue concern as long as she kept moving forward, to find what she was meant to be doing with her life. She kept reinforcing that things happen for a reason and as long as Elin was happy she could achieve whatever she set her mind to. Elin composed herself and undeterred by unsuccessful job applications, she started attending Luton Sixth Form College. It was during the summer of her first year at college that she did a week’s work experience at Leonardo.

MORE FROM SKILLS & CAREERS

Elin said: “I felt I was having the best time of my life learning about engineering and meeting new people. We were looking at design, soldering things and the whole week inspired me. I went back to college for a second year but did not do very well. Then at first it was like ‘I am never going to get to work for a company like that’. “

After completing Sixth Form College, Elin held down three jobs at the same time, as a waitress, a showroom assistant and a gymnastics coach. It turned out that coupled with her intelligence and enthusiastic attitude and determination, all of these roles gave her transferrable skills that made her a strong candidate for Leonardo. Reckoning she had nothing to lose, she sat on Christmas Eve with her Mum filling out an application form. On 3 January that year, she received a letter saying she was called to an interview and the day after the interview she received a call on the way to her gymnastics coaching to say she got the job.

Listen to your body, listen to your mind and put yourself at the top of your priority list

Elin said: “I was ecstatic – I just cried! This experience taught me that the reason I didn’t do my A Levels or get those other jobs was that there was a much better opportunity further down the line that I needed to be free for. If you keep persevering and going through what you are going through and work really hard, you will get there. It might be straight away or a couple of years down the line, but everything happens for a reason and you will get what you work for.”

At Leonardo, Elin is able to play to her strengths and she believes one of the reasons she received such a late diagnosis is that she is so confident and articulate, so being able to be open and honest with work colleagues has allowed her to thrive. She is able to use software that will allow her to dictate rather than having to type documents and in meetings she is able to explain she can’t take notes and talk at the same time, so they use another method.

Elin attends Bedford College one day a week and is currently finishing a BTech Level 3 in Engineering while working towards an Engineering Technician Standard. Her apprenticeship has allowed her to complete rotational placements across the business including systems integration, quality assurance, software, obsolescence, and antennas.  When she finishes her apprenticeship, she would like to move into an engineering role, inspired by the example of her grandfather who was an electronics engineer at the Natural Environment Research Council. Her grandfather would often accompany biologists on trips at sea to monitor the environment.

But Elin’s experiences have meant she prioritises her own wellbeing and as part of her Leonardo Benefits package, she makes use of her gym membership and flexi-time which allows her to shape her day around a healthy balanced way of living.

Sharing why she believes self-care is vital to professional growth, Elin said: “Look after yourself, burning yourself out is not fun. That means caring for your mental health and your physical health. Listen to your body, listen to your mind and put yourself at the top of your priority list and then you will be able to grasp opportunities to the fullest when they come along.”