Fact File

  • Name: Audrey
  • Age: 25
  • Job: Robotics engineer training to be a design and technology teacher
  • From: Born in Zimbabwe; lived in Sheffield since primary school
  • Favourite place: Home!
  • Favourite food: Barbeque
  • Favourite animal: Cat
  • Spirit animal: Phoenix
  • Favourite TV: Crime or real life murder documentaries
  • Favourite music: All sorts
  • Selfie or polaroid: Selfie
  • Favourite saying: Be reyt
  • Pet peeve: Micro-management in life in general
  • Inspirational woman: My grandma. She was a nurse in rural Zimbabwe and she was always looking after people

Audrey received a WEST bursary when she was studying engineering at Sheffield College. She went on to do a degree in robotics and work in industry. Now she is training to be a teacher to inspire other girls.

Why did you want to be an engineer?

I’ve always been like this. I see something and I wonder: how does it work, why was it made that way?
When I was a child, if something like a toaster or an X-Box broke, my mum would let me open it up to see what was inside. I just wanted to look – but I wouldn’t necessarily put it together again!

How did you become an engineer?

After my GCSEs I went to Sheffield College and did a BTEC in engineering. Then I went to the University of Central Lancashire and completed a BEng in Robotics. After this I worked in industry for over three years, most recently at Rolls Royce doing some robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality.

Now I’ve decided that I want to use my skills to inspire other girls to do engineering so I’m training to be a Design and Technology teacher.

Audrey- robotics engineer

What are the best things about engineering?

I’m a very nosy person. I have to know how things work. It’s like a puzzle and I enjoy the challenge so it doesn’t feel like work. When I’ve solved something or found out about it, I just want to tell everyone how I did it. I like to really researching things and talking about them.

We were driving home one day and water splashed on the windscreen which made the automatic wipers come on. I immediately thought: I wonder how that works? I knew it must be some kind of sensor but was it triggered by moisture or some kind of laser? I just had to know so I jumped on Google to find out. And then I told all my friends about it!

Who or what inspired you?

When I was in year 8, three girls came into my school for a STEM event. They talked about chemical engineering and shampoo, and about how hair straighteners had to be engineered by someone.
It was all stereotypical girlie things – but it definitely got me started in thinking that I would do engineering as a subject.

Have you encountered sexism or other prejudice as an engineer, and how do you deal with it?

I suppose there are people who are sexist and prejudiced, so it’s to be expected. That said, there are also allies – it’s not all bad.

When I was working in industry in a responsible job, some people would assume that I was there to make tea or coffee, or that I was someone’s assistant! I don’t know where that came from as no-one even had assistants.

I remember working on a really important project where I was testing that components being made for planes were working properly. So I had to be very detailed. People would say, “You’re very pedantic or bossy.” But if I had been a man, they probably would have said, “Oh he’s very hard-working or diligent!”

I just ignore it. You just have to prove yourself with your work. Eventually people learn to respect you.

Audrey holding a robotWhere would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I don’t know! I’ll always be passionate about engineering and I like education and teaching. I’m not sure where its going to go. But as long as it’s fun and interesting – I’ll be there!

What do you do in your spare time?

I used to play rugby for Sheffield Ladies. Now I like to make soap. I buy the bases and essential oils and use dried flowers. I do the whole process including creating nice packaging, and make soaps for my friends.

What advice would you give to girls thinking about doing engineering?

Why not? Why not engineering?! And work on your confidence – that’s going to be very important. In other works, believe in yourself!

More…

See an interview with Audrey from a few years ago when she was awarded a WEST bursary.