King's Lynn's Mars Food female project engineer encourages girls and women to take up careers in the industry
Women or girls considering a career in engineering should pursue their ambitions and not be deterred by suggestions that it's a "boys' club" role, according to a female project engineer at Lynn's Mars Food UK base.
The company is backing this year's International Women in Engineering Day on Sunday, a campaign to raise the profile of women employed in the industry and showcase career opportunities available to girls.
Jessica Mason joined Mars in September 2016, initially starting out on the two-year engineering graduate programme, known as the Mars Engineering Development Programme, before progressing into her current role as a project engineer.
Previously she studied chemical engineering at the University of Cambridge. There, she captained the university’s triathlon club and developed a passion for motivating people, organising training sessions and putting on events – transferable skills that she says are essential to her current role as project engineer at Mars.
Strong mentoring and impactful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) initiatives at her school helped her recognise the opportunities for a career in engineering. Her progress within Mars has been supported by several female role models, including a plant manager and senior engineer.
Jessica wants to prove to others what is achievable though a career in engineering when hard work and commitment is applied, regardless of gender.
She said: “My job is to ensure the projects on our site run as smoothly as possible. Day to day, I work with contractors who are specialised in different types of engineering to find solutions that are the best fit for our factory and processes at Mars.
"Currently, I’m really enjoying managing a new waste-water treatment plant project. As project lead, I am working with civil contractors and equipment specialists to deliver the new treatment plant to improve the quality of waste water discharged from the factory.
“I know it’s a cliché, but every day is truly different in this job. Working on multiple projects means you’re working with different people and being exposed to different specialities all the time. The waste water treatment project is the largest project I’ve handled so far, but the scale of it goes to show the quality of training I’ve had and the responsibility you’re given at Mars early on.
“I also love the learning opportunities I get as a result of working with Mars. While my focus at Cambridge was in chemical engineering, my job isn’t limited to this, and I get to manage projects across the engineering spectrum. A great part of my job is the opportunity to broaden my overall understanding and skillset.
“I received encouragement and gained awareness of STEM subjects at a young age through my maths teacher. It’s the genuine enjoyment I got out of the STEM subjects at school which led me down this path, and I hope these opportunities are still widely accessible to everyone at that age.
“I’m concerned that there may be barriers to girls getting into STEM subjects, because of lack of awareness of the opportunities and a lack of role models. That’s why I’d love to further develop my leadership skills to mentor younger girls to set an example so that one day we won’t need a “Women in Engineering Day”. Role models need to be visible, so I would like to think I could be a role model for others.
“My advice to young women who are considering a career as an engineer would be to follow your ambitions and not let anyone make you feel like this is a 'boys club'. You’ve got just as much right to exist in this space as anyone else. If you’re young and want to pursue a career in engineering, then I would also encourage you to do something outside of your studies which demonstrates your interest in the industry. Make the most of any opportunities and get involved where you see them.”