Armed with a degree in chemistry, Lily’s career has taken her to several international businesses across a number of different sectors.
Here, she kindly shares her experience as a woman in STEM responsible for fibre roll projects, building Britain’s infrastructure.
What’s involved in being an Openreach FTTP and New products manager? Is there such a thing as ‘a normal day the office’?
My job is very varied, and every day tends to be a little different. Some days I will be out working with the engineers, seeing the new broadband products put into practice, and other days I will be discussing strategies to implement these new products with other managers both within, and outside, my team. Luckily for me I am always out and about so it’s never boring– as long as I have my laptop and phone, I am ready to work.
Something that is also very exciting about being an FTTP Manager is that the role is flexible: there are opportunities to get stuck into a broad range of projects. This not only keeps me on my toes but makes Openreach such as exciting place to work!
What’s your favourite aspect of the job? Why did you pursue a career in telecoms?
My favourite part of the job is that I get to travel all around the United Kingdom, meeting lots of new people, and working on a wide range of new opportunities. Not only does this do wonders for my network, but I now also know where some rather niche places, like Stansted Mountfitchet, are located too!
“Boys are encouraged towards technical roles almost from the get-go, whereas being an engineer is seen as something that is ‘not for girls’.”
One of the reasons I decided to work in telecoms is that I was looking for a business on the interface between the technical and the commercial. When working on an FTTP project there is the need to bring some of the scientific knowledge I acquired during my time studying chemistry. You also need to understand the business case for the new products and how they impact the customer. This mix of science and business was what appealed to me about the role within Openreach.
Across your career you’ve worked in different STEM industries, how do they compare to telecoms for gender diversity?
There is no question that there is a significant gender imbalance in STEM as a whole, however in the telecoms industry there are signs that companies are keen to address this. I hope that in my lifetime gender diversity, and diversity in general, can be improved and I am passionate about helping making this happen.
Working within pharmaceuticals it was also clear to see they are trying to increase their diversity, and as with all businesses this takes time. I am sure in my life time that jobs in STEM will be populated evenly.
In your opinion, why do you think there is such a gender imbalance? Does it even matter? What can we do about it?
To me, the gender imbalance for STEM starts at a very young age. Indeed, boys are encouraged towards technical roles almost from the get-go, whereas being an engineer is seen as something that is ‘not for girls’. By treating this mindset at the very start; by teaching both males and females that STEM is for them, a significant step can be taken to address these issues.
“STEM gives you such wide range of respected skills. You really can make your career what you want.”
For me, I was told growing up that I had a ‘boys’ brain’; this kind of comment, whether through intention or accident, is the kind of remark that serves to put off a generation of women from a STEM career. There is no need for this of course. If we want to carry on telling girls that they need to be fashionable, then we might also try pointing out that you can be fashionable and do STEM
Any advice for women and girls looking to get into the sector?
Most of my friends from school and college went on to study non-STEM subjects, and so at times I felt like the odd one out, but it turns out that following your interests is one of the keys to success. My advice would be that if you enjoy a STEM subject or think that a role in STEM could be for you, then you should pursue that further.
What I think is the most exciting thing about studying STEM and working in STEM is that you end up with such a wide range of skills that are really respected. You really can make your career what you want. I studied chemistry at university and now I work in a business and engineering environment. Who knows where you could end up?
Lily’s passion for STEM led her to a telecoms job she loves where the ‘technical and commercial meet’. This passion could have been so easily extinguished by inbuilt prejudices that suggest that a girls technical aptitude is the result of having a ‘boy’s brain’.
Thankfully this is just one of the many issues being highlighted by International Women’s Day campaigns in a bid to stop these stereotypes hampering female potential. You stay up to date with Lily on her travels connecting Britain’s homes and businesses as part of her work with Openreach by following her on LinkedIn.
Learn more about International Women’s Day.