Whitecode

CELEBRATING INWED 2021: LET’S GO GIRLS!

21 Jun 2021

The annual International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) celebrates the innovative work of female engineers from across the world. To mark the occasion, Whitecode sat down with its all-star team of sustainability specialists – Ellen Huelin, Katy Venables, Antonette Easwaranathan and Amy Webb – to discuss why they love sustainability, being women engineers, and their heroes, which is the theme of this year’s INWED.

The annual International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) celebrates the innovative work of female engineers from across the world. To mark the occasion, Whitecode sat down with its all-star team of sustainability specialists – Ellen Huelin, Katy Venables, Antonette Easwaranathan and Amy Webb – to discuss why they love sustainability, being women engineers, and their heroes, which is the theme of this year’s INWED.

Q: Tell us about your career so far?

Ellen: I’ve been working in sustainability for around 14 years and lead Whitecode’s team of sustainability specialists. I graduated with a science-related degree and was greatly influenced by my dad who worked in planning policy and was a town planner.

As I have progressed in my career, sustainability has advanced tremendously. Back in the day we focused mainly on SAP calculations, BREEAM assessments and operational carbon, yet now we incorporate other elements such as embodied carbon, lifecycle carbon and circular economy.

Sustainability really evolves with the times. As a specialist, it is great to see these innovations unravel and be the ones utilising them.

Katy: Working within the sustainability team at Whitecode suits my lifestyle. As a stay-at-home mum I started off working at home performing heat loss calculations. As my children have got older, I have worked more and more and am now full-time.

Antonette: I started my career as a chemical engineer and studied and worked in Sri Lanka. When I moved here, I worked in the paint industry but I wasn’t fulfilled. So, I did a masters in sustainable energy systems. From there I joined the building services industry and work as a sustainability engineer. I love what I do. We are doing something to help the planet – we reduce carbon – and help contractors and councils with their requirements.

Q: Why did you decide to become an engineer?

Amy: I was inspired by my grandad. He explained how buildings can be sustainable and I was hooked from a young age. I did an EPQ project at school which was all about the sustainability of brick and this sparked my interest even more.

Antonette: I was the first engineer in the area where I grew up. We didn’t have electricity, and when I was little, I always wanted to build solar panels or a wind turbine. I wanted to design something to get electricity to my home. I didn’t know at the time I wanted to be an engineer, but I was personally fascinated with designing things.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

Ellen: Finding the innovative solutions that work for clients. It is great when they get enthusiastic about sustainability. On a separate note, I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest changes and evolutions, not to mention doing CPDs.

Q: What would be your advice to women entering the industry?

Antonette: If someone wants to be an engineer, they should do it. There are more women engineers coming into the industry – the stereotypes shouldn’t put you off.

Ellen: Sometimes on first appearances people may not think you know what you’re doing. But once you show your competency and knowledge, you gain their respect. Don’t let the perception of construction as a male-dominated industry get you down; go for it, as there are so many opportunities and great people to work with!

Amy: I agree. I think there is something special in knowing that you are part of the change that is encouraging more women into engineering.

Katy: There is never a dull day when you work in sustainability; it covers everything from ecology to flood risk and overheating. It is such a broad and rewarding sector.

Q: How can women be encouraged into engineering?

Katy: When you look at a lot of the brochures, men in hardhats feature everywhere. There needs to be a huge change in the industry’s representation, as it is becoming more diverse. My role is a desk job primarily, so we need to get away from the stereotype that construction is all about boots and hardhats.

Ellen: In terms of sustainability, I think it is important to realise that you don’t need to have a degree, you can learn on the job. There are so many courses and memberships (including CIBSE) that women can do and be a part of.

Q: Who inspires you?

Ellen: My team inspires me! We work well together and have each other’s back all the time.

Antonette: All of my female friends who are engineers already inspire me, not to mention the women I meet through work, who motivate me to be a better engineer.

ENDS

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