Svetlana's Story

Svetlana Shamshoum lives in Rotherham and works as a street lighting technician for Rotherham Council. She has just completed her first year studying for ONC Civil Engineering at Sheffield College.

WEST gave Svetlana a £75 bursary in 2016 to go towards the cost of a laptop for her study.

What or who inspired you?
There wasn’t any one particular person who inspired me, I did just always knew that I wanted to do something interesting and challenging.

I was working in admin for street lighting in Rotherham, and used to see all the technicians going surveying and designing schemes, and thought I could do that! I was always keen to take on more tasks and ask questions about how everything worked. So when a technician’s job came up, I knew I ticked all the boxes. It looked challenging, but I knew I had the potential to do it.

What did you think about starting a job in a male-dominated environment?
When I was working in admin, it was nearly all women. Now I’m working with only one other female. But I’m confident around men, so it didn’t bother me. It’s been mostly alright. Sometimes I do get complete silence when I go on site – woh it’s a woman! It doesn’t bother me, I just do what I have to do: I do my job and off I go. If anybody wants to talk to me, they’re more than welcome to!

I’ve not had any bad experiences, and I really think people are getting used to the idea and there are more females in the industry.

At college I am the only female in a class of 20 guys. At first I felt a bit nervous but now, if anything, I think they are a bit more sensitive to the fact that I’m the only girl. The banter still flows, I don’t think I’m treated any different.

What did you want to be when you were little?
I was quite a girly-girl and I wanted to be a flight attendant. As I got older I realised I wasn’t so keen on flying, so I changed my mind. I worked as a freelance interpreter for a while, and in admin, but I always wanted to do something practical and challenging.

What are your plans and ambitions?
My aim is to be a site engineer. I meet site engineers all the time and it’s a great job. I absolutely love going out on site – but I’ve not met any female engineers yet!

I find it very rewarding knowing that a lighting scheme that I’ve carried out will be there for the next 40 to 50 years.

I’m going to do my HNC, then HND and then a degree at university. It could take me 6 years to do it, but I am absolutely determined because I love it so much. And now I’ve started to do it, it would be stupid to stop. I’d like to work for a big company eventually.

Advice to other girls and women thinking of doing what you do?
Be confident, and believe in yourself. Go out and achieve your dreams.
Other people may have tell you it’s scary being in a male-dominated environment – but it’s not at all!

What did you think when you got your WEST bursary?
I was overwhelmed. I didn’t think I’d get it, so I’m really pleased. I think that what WEST does is inspiring, and the bursary will definitely help towards my studies.