One of the best careers you can get in the Raleigh-Durham area is in engineering. Besides being one of the better compensated careers for college graduates, as well as one with good long-term growth predictions, it also has a certain limiting association: the idea that engineering is primarily a field for men.
One story that might give women encouragement to consider the field comes all the way from England via a 21-year-old named Sara Underwood. In high school, Sara had good test scores in science and math. She worked part-time jobs in shops and cafes, and was on track to go to college, then get a job. One night, however, Sara was watching TV with her parents when a documentary about Rolls-Royce’s jumbo jet engines came on, which Sara found fascinating.
Researching online led her to Rolls-Royce’s apprenticeship program, similar to U.S. co-op programs which let talented students gain work experience at an earlier stage than an internship or waiting to graduate college first. Apprenticeships allow students to bypass the high debt and dim employment prospects of typical university graduates who hold a degree, but little work experience. Sara applied, was accepted, and immersed herself within the engineering culture at Rolls-Royce.
After a few years of working in several different teams within the company, Sara was awarded a prestigious U.K. award for female engineer of the year, all without a college degree. That last bit will change this year as Sara begins her university studies, now with a firm idea of what she will study and for what purpose. After achieving her bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Sara hopes to get a master’s degree and continue working for Rolls-Royce.
“I’m hoping to get onto Rolls-Royce’s assembly and manufacturing leadership scheme,” she says, “where you get to do six month placements in different areas of the business around the UK, working in anything from civil aerospace or defence to marine or energy.”
Long term goals include becoming the first female CEO of the longstanding company, which sounds like a pretty good target to us. Best of luck, Sara!