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Cheryl Cave – International Women in Engineering Day

Cheryl Cave

In recognition of International Women in Engineering Day, our engineer Cheryl Cave gave an insight into the life of a female engineer in the engineering industry.

What is your job like?

As a Design Engineer of subsea trenching vehicles (trenching, cutting, cable laying) in the Trenching, Mining and Renewables business at SMD, I am involved in anything from the design of bespoke solutions to the modification of existing designs all centred around the requirements of our customers. I have also been a Document Controller, a Draughtsman, a Project Engineer and a Project Manager during my career, so I draw on my experiences to design/work practically with other departments in mind.

What do you like about manufacturing?

I love seeing something I have created on screen turn into something physical, something that works. In this industry you aren’t pigeon-holed – you might be designing part of a machine one day, writing a manual another, putting on your overalls routing hoses the next. I have been fortunate with the companies I have worked for to steer my career in the direction I wanted it to take.

How did you get into manufacturing?

I was given an opportunity in 6th form to visit Strathclyde University for a week. We had lectures and practical sessions on a number of engineering fields and it just felt right. I had only taken design and technology and maths at school, so I didn’t think I would even get into university without physics. However my first choice, Newcastle University, took my enthusiasm and extra curriculum activities into account and I got accepted!

What challenges have you overcome in your career?

My lack of physics did eventually get the better of me and I failed my first and second year. My personal tutor took me to one side and suggested I quit and do something easier. Determined to be an engineer, I dug my heels in, got my head down and I passed. I owe a lot to my Design Tutor for his continued support and constant faith in me.I think there is a misconception about the industry being a “man’s world”. Yes, there are a lot of men, but it’s just encouraged me to prove myself even more!I recently had a baby and I thought this would potentially be the end of my career. I could not have done the commute to my last place of work without sacrificing family life. I have been very fortunate that SMD are a really supportive employer, they have allowed me the flexibility to work the hours I need and to return home as necessary during the day. I am now confident that I can have both a career and a family, there is no need to settle for one or the other just because I’m a woman.

What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in manufacturing?

Do your research. Find the companies out there who make the products you’re interested in or the type of manufacturing you like and go after them. SMD make some ground-breaking kit and it’s really exciting, for me that is really important! I have worked in a few sectors within the industry, oil and gas, subsea, manufacturing and automotive and I have found it is the product that makes the job. People come and go, owners and managers adjust the way companies are run, but if you are passionate about the product, you become an ambassador for the company. I find I am more enthusiastic when I speak to people about what I do, I am driven by quality and I take more pride in my work. When you find the right one, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like a hobby.​​