Q&A: Canon’s Ciara Fullam, Nicola Johnson and Kathryn Scott

Following INWED24, Canon’s Ciara Fullam, Nicola Johnson and Kathryn Scott discuss their roles, educational initiatives, and strides being made to successfully implement diversity, equity, inclusion.

Ciara is the only female engineer in the UK and Ireland working hands-on with high-end production printers like the varioPRINT iX
Ciara is the only female engineer in the UK and Ireland working hands-on with high-end production printers like the varioPRINT iX - Canon


Ciara Fullam, System Service Engineer, Canon:

Tell us a bit more about your job as an engineer, and more specifically, your role at Canon. What projects do you contribute to? What is your favourite part of the job?

My core role is a Service Systems Engineer within the Northern Ireland Service Team where I work across our fleet of printers installing, fixing and maintaining devices from small desktop i-SENSYS devices to our commercial inkjet varioPRINT iX devices. I’m also the go to person for troubleshooting and supporting with escalations from other members of my team when needed. I work on associated controller systems such as Fiery and Prisma for job workflow and colour management. I’ve also recently teamed up with our Business Development team to explore new opportunities for growth locally.

What originally drew you to a career in engineering? Did you always want to be an engineer? If not, as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a fascination with puzzles and figuring out how things work. Which, at a very basic level, is what engineering is all about. When I was younger, I wanted to be a vet because I love horses. But as I grew, I considered law and even chose Latin as one of the subjects for my GCSEs to get a head start. But ultimately, engineering was what captured my interest.

What are some of your proudest achievements as a woman in engineering? 

As the only female engineer in the UK and Ireland working hands-on with our high-end production printers like the varioPRINT iX, I take a lot of pride in breaking new ground.

One of my standout moments was taking part in our corporate film ‘Canon sees the whole you. It was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with talented people from across the company that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to work with. It was also a fantastic way to showcase Canon’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. It felt fantastic to be a part of a project that highlights these values so strongly.

What are some of the challenges that you have experienced in your career/ your life that have influenced you as a person and as an engineer? 

One of the challenges I’ve faced in my career is dealing with the assumption that, as a woman, I couldn’t possibly be an engineer. It’s disheartening when customers assume over the phone that I’m not the one coming to fix their problem, or when within the notes for a particular job that the engineer will handle something when ‘he’ arrives.

On a personal level, living with thyroid cancer has also been challenging. It can be frustrating, especially when it affects my emotions or makes it harder to retain numbers. These experiences have definitely shaped me both as a person and an engineer, teaching me resilience and patience.

What skills and strengths have helped you in your career as a woman in a male dominated industry? And how have these unique strengths enhanced your contribution to the industry?

It may sound a little cliché, but I’m a believer in reading the instructions. Or in our case, the service manual. More often than not, the answer is right there. By taking the time to understand how a particular system works, you can resolve most issues. I’m definitely more of a ‘let’s think about this before diving in’ type. I prefer to plan my approach. This mindset has helped me tackle complex problems and has brought a unique perspective to the team.

Outside of your career, what other passions do you have? How do you enjoy spending your free time?

I used to do lot of weight training, but that’s taken a little bit of a back seat since I had my thyroidectomy. However, I hope to get back to it in the future. Right now, I’m a member of my local camera club and am trying to learn about photography. I’ve also joined the committee of my local community association, where I’ve been actively involved in efforts to improve village life.

What advice would you give to young women starting their careers in engineering?

Don’t be intimidated. You might be the only woman in the room – make yourself heard. You have every right to be there and are just as capable as every other person in the room. Show them what you can do.

What changes would you like to see the industry make so that more women are supported and encouraged in engineering careers?

Casual sexism is still something we need to address. Just because there’s a woman in a room full of men doesn’t mean she’s there to take the minutes or make the tea. Women deserve equal respect to men and not to ever be made to feel like their achievements are based on anything other than their own merit.

Nicola Johnson, HR People Development Manager, Canon:

What role do educational initiatives play in creating more opportunities for women in engineering?

It’s encouraging that we now see more educational initiatives for young women in the STEM subjects, opening up career opportunities in traditionally male dominated fields. As a parent of two teenage girls, I’ve been really pleased to see the doors that are now open. Recently, my 13-year-old had the chance to join a ‘Girls in Tech’ event, organised by her school. And later this year, when my 16-year-old starts Sixth Form College, she’ll have the option to join a ‘Women in STEM’ group that has become much more popular in recent years.

Initiatives like these are so important in showing young girls that they can pursue any career they choose, without being limited by gender. Representation from those already working in these fields, like Ciara, is so important in demonstrating what’s possible and inspiring the next generation.

Kathryn Scott, HR Director, Canon:

How is Canon taking steps to encourage more women to enter the industry and support them throughout their careers?

At Canon, we’re extremely keen to encourage more women into the industry and support them through their careers by having an inclusive culture. We put huge importance on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and this is an area where we’re continuing to make improvements in how we attract more diverse colleagues to come and work with us at Canon. We’ve recently launched a Women’s Network, whose purpose is to create ‘a safe environment for Women at Canon UK & Ireland to share, collaborate, inspire, develop and empower each other’. It’s important to us that we break down stereotypes and create a working environment where everyone is enabled to thrive.