INWED ‘22 profile: A diverse workforce offers a multitude of solutions

3 min read

Different people bring different approaches and thinking, so the more diversity we have within the field of engineering, the more variety in viewpoints, ideas and solutions we are going to uncover, says Billie Sequeira, Sustainability Executive, BAE Systems

Billie Sequeira, Sustainability Executive, BAE Systems
Billie Sequeira, Sustainability Executive, BAE Systems - BAE Systems

My interest in engineering began at school. I always enjoyed problem solving and science so it seemed like a natural career choice. While I was at school, I only ever considered going to university as it was the only career trajectory I knew. However, once I’d finished, I felt ready to take the plunge and go straight into the working world. Fortunately, I had attended an Engineering Taster Week where I found out about the BAE Systems apprenticeship scheme which felt like the ideal way for me to further both my education and my career – and I haven’t looked back since!

Finding my own way

Throughout my time at BAE Systems, I’ve been fortunate enough to take on a few different roles. I joined BAE Systems via the Technical Apprenticeship scheme in Rochester, Kent. Following this, I worked in Hardware Engineering for five years, managing obsolescence and circuit design solutions across a number of high-profile flight critical programs.

Since completing my apprenticeship, I’ve taken on a new role in sustainability strategy. I develop sustainability data for reporting and disclosures, as well as working towards defining our ESG agenda. It’s been a big change but despite the feeling of imposter syndrome at times (something I'm working on tackling every day), I know that my skillset and experience make me the right person for the job – something I’m immensely proud of.

Pull quote: my main inspiration has always been Hedy Lamarr… a glamorous actress who also invented frequency hopping

Working for BAE Systems has enabled me to have some wonderful experiences and career highlights. In 2019, I was awarded Top 50 Women in Engineering by the Women's Engineering Society and Top 100 Most Influential Women Leaders in Engineering by Inclusive Boards and Financial Times. Last year, I was also a finalist for the National Diversity Awards Positive Role Model Award. From over 55,000 nominations, I was ecstatic to have made the top six and to meet so many other inspirational people working hard to make the world a better place for all.

Some advice I would give anyone looking at a career in STEM is to seek out a mentor, and I’d encourage any aspiring engineers to not underestimate the value of networking. I’ve always found those in the industry to be more than happy to answer questions and provide resources. Attend as many events and conferences as you can to meet people – even reaching out on social media is a great way to connect with those in the field and start expanding your circle.

An inclusive environment for all

What I enjoy most about engineering is that it’s an industry that is ever-changing, working with innovative technology and creating solutions to real-world problems. However, there are many barriers that need to be tackled for equal opportunities in the workplace. There’s certainly a level of misunderstanding as to what engineering is, from STEM in schools to the general public’s opinion.

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It’s important that companies continue to invest in younger generations to help turn the tide of the stereotypes that still prevail in STEM and specifically in engineering. External factors are not the only aspect a company should focus on, they should also look to support and progress from within. Providing safe spaces such as mentoring, women networks and ally groups allows women and marginalised groups to express their concerns, and address issues – collectively.

Inspiration and innovation

There are so many truly amazing women innovate and inspire me, but my main inspiration has always been Hedy Lamarr. Hedy was a glamorous actress who also invented frequency hopping, the foundation for today's wireless networks including WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth communication systems. However, throughout her career, Hedy was known for her beauty and her acting and her amazing mind was ignored.

It was only when she went to Hollywood that she met someone who encouraged her to explore her creative mind in STEM. Following this, when WW2 began, Hedy worked on a "Secret Communication System" that relied on frequency hopping, a torpedo that could not be intercepted by enemy forces. In the last decade of her life, the brains behind Hedy's beauty was finally revealed for all to see and even then she was questioned about whether her intelligence was genuine.

Like Hedy, I want to be an example to others and show that you can enter engineering from any background. You shouldn’t be reluctant because of what you may assume about the industry, and what you think it may assume about you, it’s not just factories and hard hats! Engineering will only benefit by continuing to diversify.  Different people bring different approaches and thinking, so the more diversity we have within the field, the more variety in viewpoints, ideas and solutions we are going to uncover.