Carol Burke CBE FREng is Managing Director of Unipart Manufacturing Group.
“It isn’t just about engines, physics and maths, it's also about creativity, conservation and beauty. ”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
My team and I design and manufacture safety and performance critical parts for products such as cars and aeroplanes. This means that each part that we design, manufacture and sell must be 'right': it must perform to an exacting standard, not hurt anyone and cost exactly what we planned. Engineering is the process of bringing people and science together to make products and provide services that solve the world’s problems.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
The process of applying science is exciting. I find it very rewarding to solve a problem or find a solution using technology, while at the same time generating wealth for shareholders and your country.
Please describe your first job.
I was a production leader, and for the first time, I was responsible for something and someone other than myself – the performance of the team. This involved people, the plant and equipment working together to produce a product that customers would buy and would want to buy again. It felt like a big responsibility and I learned a lot about myself. I had to get the very best out of people and use the plant and equipment effectively. I needed to understand the product and process and engage our employees to solve problems and be better every day.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Solving problems and creating wealth. The only true way of doing this is to add value and do it better than your competitors. You create something, whether a product or a service, that customers need or want to buy.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
Building and establishing a brand-new factory, and seeing it become an environment where others wanted to work and be successful.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the profession?
Women continue to be in the minority, but people are less surprised to see women in engineering now, so less attention is paid to your gender. The more we define engineering beyond the narrow definitions perceived by many, the more attractive our profession will become to all young people.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Don’t be too fixated on one sector or discipline. Think about engineering in its broadest sense and define the role that you want to play in the context of this bigger ambition. When engineers define their roles in this way, they become inspiring to young people before and after they join the profession.
This year’s IWD theme is ‘Balance for Better’. How can engineers contribute to a gender-balanced world?
'Problem-solving' and 'solution-finding' need to be the central themes of engineering careers. Engineering needs to be seen as a career that leads to making a difference and enables individuals to solve the challenges that the human race and the planet face. It isn’t just about engines, physics and maths, it's also about creativity, conservation and beauty. As we are doing here, women and men need to talk about the contributions that engineers make, and the excitement and achievement that they gain from their work.
This profile was created for International Women’s Day in March 2019. All information was correct at time of publication