Amy Lane’s engineering career has brought her to various locations as an aboriginal community in Australia and a Cork County primary school. Now, working as a manager at Kirby Group Engineering in Limerick, she wants her career path to be realistic for all young people.
Last month, I found myself arriving at an elementary school in Cork, armed with bundles of elastic bands, popcorn sticks and paper clips to deliver an engineering seminar to more than 60 children. I was there as part of Kirby Group Engineering’s early alignment project and ready to challenge the kids to build a bridge that could hold a bottle of water for 60 seconds.
You may be surprised that this may be part of my role as an electrical engineering manager, but it is one that I am passionate about. I have also taken on the job of running Kirby’s graduate engineering program because I believe 100 percent that positive influences play a big role in showing young people where their future may be.
My dad is a mechanic and he encouraged my sisters, brother and me to explore STEM subjects at school. Without his influence, I could have attended many of my classmates from a girls only school in nursing, administration, business, or teaching, and I would never have known what engineering had to offer. I want to be able to do this for the other girls, but on a much larger scale, so that instead of just two women in an engineering class of 60 in college, it would be 20 or 30.
I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from CIT (now known as MTU) and moved to Australia in 2010. I spent some incredible years there, gaining valuable experience in the mining, oil, gas and electricity sectors, to employers like WorleyParsons and EDL. One of the highlights was working with aboriginal communities to set up power generation facilities in some of the most remote parts of the country.
In 2018, it was time to return home to Cork and start my work in data center delivery. I have left behind many people in the engineering industry who I believe would be willing to relocate home for the right opportunity. It has been very difficult for them to stay firm during the pandemic and there are many opportunities for engineering work now here in Ireland. If anyone reading this is thinking of making the move at home, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to do so.
In my day-to-day work right now, I work with engineers across Kirby to make sure they have the tools and people to deliver projects to the demanding standards that our clients expect. I am also incorporating the new Kirby’s Engineers Ireland CPD accredited employer standards throughout my team and within the graduate program and curriculum.
However, there is so much I want to do to inspire the excitement about engineering in prospective graduates at a young age, which leads me to elementary schools across the country. By the time they finish school and enter university, students have often already decided what they want to be. If young women do not see someone like me who works in engineering and loves my job, they may never consider it – and they would lose so much. Engineering offers a fantastic career for everyone and my experience with Kirby has shown that digital technology is rapidly expanding the capabilities of the sector, so the number of roles and opportunities is growing all the time.
Once someone gets into the industry, mentoring is a valuable tool to support them throughout their careers. The relationships you build in your early career can last a lifetime. They make you better at your job and open your eyes to the bigger picture. I still talk to my first mentor and am learning a lot from my mentor in Kirby, the group’s electrical engineering manager Barry O’Sullivan.
On International Women in Engineering Day, I really appreciate the opportunity to address colleagues on this issue and urge girls and women to consider a future in engineering. Awareness Days play a critical role in raising the profile of the extraordinary women innovators and inventors who shape our world. But wouldn’t it be nice if we got to the point where many more girls consider engineering as their main career choice?
I like to imagine a future where we do not need an International Women in Engineering Day, where children do not feel fit or fit into a career because of their gender. Meanwhile, me and my colleagues at Kirby will continue to spread the word that everyone can have something to offer in our field.
By Amy Lane
Amy Lane is the electrical engineering manager at Kirby Group Engineering with more than a decade of experience in this field.
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