From always having an interest in STEM subjects to pursuing that interest further, Clare Niesigh’s story highlights the importance of work experience and placements in cementing a career path.
Clare explains “I had always been interested in STEM subjects in school and when I chose my A-levels I stuck with STEM subjects as I enjoyed them. I managed to get onto a STEMNET week long summer camp in Jyvaskyla, Finland. I spent a week finding out about engineering; going to Universities, doing workshops and to the World Rally Championships where we met the Ford rally team. This cemented for me that I wanted to study Mechanical Engineering.”
Following an engineering degree at Cardiff University, she spent a year in industry at Pembrokeshire Refinery with Aker Solutions and a summer placement at Schlumberger doing R&D in Stonehouse. Clare found that these opportunities had assisted her in choosing a career path. To be specific, nuclear generation and decommissioning at Magnox was what appealed the most, so much so, she applied to the two year graduate scheme in both the North and South. By the end of the two years, Clare then knew exactly where she wanted to be.
Clare is currently a Senior Mechanical Engineer at Horizon Nuclear Power, who are developing a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK using Hitachi-GE’s ABWR (Advanced Boiling Water Reactor) design. When asked about her role, Clare states “This is often a high pressure role with tight deadlines that must be met whilst maintaining the required level of technical scrutiny, which can be very challenging. But actually I think often it’s some of the challenges I face in work that are the things I enjoy about it the most; finding solutions to both the technical and project problems that come up often involves the most exciting work!”. Alongside the challenges are many highlights, and for Clare, working on the last Wylfa outage and her involvement with the local IMechE young members committee for Bath and Bristol are just a few of many.
With this year marking the 50th anniversary of a woman officially running the Boston marathon, Clare understands that attitudes in society have changed. “Everyone – men and women – require more flexibility in their careers for there to be no barriers for anyone, and everyone needs role models they can look up and aspire to.” Therefore, to promote the importance of women in engineering, Clare would love to be in a more senior position to act as a role model to other new or aspiring female engineers. She highlights “I’ve met some people I really look up to since working in Horizon and that has made me realise it’s really important for everyone to have someone they relate to.”
A current topic is the lack in interest in STEM subjects. Clare encourages everyone, boy or girl to get into engineering and find their passion in STEM subjects, just like she did. However, she draws attention to the fact that the image of engineering still has a disconnect between those that know or are in the industry and those that aren’t. But, more importantly she wants kids to think of engineering as a way to make a difference or solve the problems in the world – something we can all agree on.