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CDE Celebrate Female Engineers

First published in the August 2021 issue of Quarry Management as We can be Heroes

CDE celebrate and champion their female engineers for International Women in Engineering Day

International Women in Engineering Day (23 June) is an annual day of celebration and awareness for women working in the field of engineering and the career opportunities in the industry that are available to girls. CDE, the industry-leading manufacturer of wet processing equipment, are proud to champion the women thriving in engineering roles within the company, and to shine a light on their contribution to creating the best world, a tonne at a time.

Laura McNeill, process/chemical engineer at CDE, explained: ‘I’m responsible for most pilot-scale testing, including those for specialist sands and ores… The lab testing ensures the customer’s plant is specifically tailored to their needs and the materials they work with and leads to optimization of the plant. Most material [that our clients deal with] goes through some degree of testing, so I’ve been involved in a lot of international projects. I really mean it when I say I’m proud of all the lab work I do.’

With CDE supporting clients across the globe, Claire Hamill, electrical engineer, agreed that it was impressive to see the reach of her work. ‘I’m lucky to have been involved in projects around the world, including in Ireland, the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North and Latin America… I was also the lead electrical engineer on the first SOMEVAM project and I’m particularly proud of two of our Australian mining projects with Iron Monarch and Iron Baron. The towns rely heavily on these mines. Tonnes of excavated dirt and soil (overburden) needs to be processed to extract iron ore. The fact that a whole population depends on these mines and plants being successful for livelihoods means a lot.’

The roles being occupied by women engineers at CDE range in experience from senior technical systems engineer to placement quality engineer, currently occupied by student Caoimhe Dickey. She said: ‘I’m in the third year of my Mechanical Engineering degree. I’m involved in all projects; anything leaving the factory I’ve had some input in. Mainly, I look after quality standards, so approval of incoming materials, in process and finished materials. We’re always making sure things go out at highest possible quality.’

But not all the engineering roles at CDE have a focus on manufacturing, as Claire Hamill explained: ‘CDE is a mechanical engineering-based company. When I applied, I wasn’t entirely sure where I would fit, but I quickly realized that these machines wouldn’t work without power. Our vital role is putting power to the machines, using smart systems and control panels to ensure they are running efficiently. Every machine is run by electricity; our role keeps them running as designed.’

Engineers, collectively, work to the best of their ability to develop the best solution for their customers – something that is evident when speaking to all those involved in the process at CDE. As Ada Szymanska, graduate laboratory process engineer, remarked: ‘I believe all engineers should be viewed as equal.’

Statistics show, however, that just under 13% of the engineering workforce is female, and women engineers are still hugely under-represented in the profession. It is difficult, therefore, to encourage more young women and girls into the profession.

Tracy O’Kane, senior technical systems engineer, said: ‘There’s always going to be a demand for good-quality engineers. The industry is portrayed as very male focused. If you alienate 50% of your potential talent pool, then you’re losing a massive number of good engineers.’

A number of CDE’s current women engineers commented that they received support and inspiration from teachers during their time at school, as Ada Szymanska confirmed: ‘I consider all female engineers and scientists to be heroes. In particular, my physics and chemistry teachers are heroes of mine. Both were females and they inspired me. They made me realize I love sciences and that’s why I pursued a career in this area.’

Those considering a career in the industry are advised to research the multitude of possible fields, gain some experience, if possible, to have a better idea of what area best matches your interests, and simply take the leap.

Claire Hamill said: ‘Do it! You’ve nothing to lose with an engineering degree or apprenticeship. The apprenticeship route is one I think that many females don’t realize is even an option open to them.’

Tracy O’Kane added: ‘I’m quite vocal in getting young people into engineering. The fundamentals you learn in engineering are very transferable to other industries and careers. It’s a great foundation to start off from. People with engineering degrees have a great opportunity to progress into other roles and sectors.’

Further highlighting the diversity of opportunity that a background in engineering opens, Amy Giles transitioned from aeronautical engineering to become CDE’s head of business improvement. She said: ‘There are so many routes within engineering. After working in business development with a world-leading manufacturer of business jets, I became a business analyst at CDE and progressed to my current role. I was also the first female project manager at the company. Our department reaches to every part of the business. We’re the facilitators of improvement… We find better ways of doing things to ensure we deliver what the customer needs.’

At the heart of all CDE’s operations is providing clients with tailored, optimized solutions that enhance their operations with significant return on investment. As Claire Hamill explained: ‘Engineering is ever evolving, so we need to be encouraging more people to pursue a career in the field. We need a continuous supply of fresh minds. Having more female voices will lead to more variety and variation in the solutions. Ultimately, we need more people that want to solve problems.’

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