JESS WRIGHT, Principal Cost Estimator in Woking, and her son Johnny
Studying and working in engineering has become something of a tradition in Jess Wright’s family. Jess’s father was an engineer for British Gas and Granherne and he encouraged her to study Chemical Engineering at university.
Jess is now passing the baton on to her son Johnny, who is waiting to hear if he has secured a spot to study a Masters in the same subject at Imperial College London.
“At school I was always stronger in the science subjects, so naturally found myself doing A-Levels in maths, physics and chemistry,” says Jess. “I realised that I quite liked the sound of my dad’s job and after work experience in different fields I ended up settling on Chemical Engineering as a degree.”
“Like my mum I was more inclined to the sciences,” adds Johnny. “An interest in engineering followed, I’ve also been interested in food production and how things are made for a long time. Having mum as a point of visibility for studying chemical engineering was pretty crucial in my decision. She pointed me in the right direction of where to look for more information and what chemical engineering is all about.”
Will Jess be able to check Johnny’s course work? “You say that but I haven’t actually done any chemical engineering for a while! After I became chartered as a process engineer I moved into the cost estimating world, as I realised that I had a natural affiliation to looking at the overall project. The great thing about engineering is there are so many facets to it, and it doesn’t close any doors when you pick it as a subject.”
Jess is now marking 15 years with Petrofac this month. But while she had the support of her father when she was younger, the same can’t be said of her school. “My careers advisor told me that girls don’t do engineering – they do applied science,” she recalls. “It was a bit of a wake-up call. On my degree there were 33 of us who did a Masters – there were 13 female students and all 13 of us had a relative working in engineering whereas it wasn’t the same with the guys on the course. I was lucky that I found the subject with a little nudge from my dad.”
This experience had a lasting impression on Jess and she now support schools and careers fairs to encourage children to consider engineering as a career.
WORDS CHRISTINA McPHERSON
PUBLISHED JUNE 2020
“There’s nothing quite like people enthusing about their jobs and the opportunities they’ve had, it can be an eye-opener for students,” she says. “There is more awareness now of STEM subjects and that awareness is making it easier to do those subjects. Historically, going back generations it seemed to be a secret and they weren’t subjects girls in particular were encouraged to study.”
While the situation is improving in the UK Johnny adds that when he was applying to university it was dominated by male applicants: “I think INWED is a good opportunity to promote the visibility of the subject. More people need to know about the subject in order to make a real change and change needs to happen right at the start of the chain of learning.”
After university Johnny hopes to become a chartered engineer. He’s unsure about what field he’d like to work in yet, but he is looking forward to finding out. “It’s not only oil and gas, there’s pharmaceuticals, food, water and a whole host of other things,” he says. “The problem-solving skills you learn can be used in lots of different fields. From what I’ve read and learned so far it’s important to keep your mind open.”
“I always say that it’s important to follow things you enjoy doing,” says Jess. “If you enjoy doing something then you’re usually quite good at it, the two go hand in hand.”