Michaelmas Edition - 2015-16
the cambridge engineer
Sponsors Main Sponsors
3,000km Across the Outback
Making a Better Future Water, Water, Everywhere
Driving into a low-carbon future
A Chat with Kirsten Henson: founder of KLH Sustainability
Cover photo by Christian Hoecker, from the Cambridge University Engineering Department Carl Zeiss Photo Competition 2014
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Editorial Hello everyone, We’re almost at the end of Michaelmas, and with that comes the Michaelmas edition of The Cambridge Engineer! Just what you need when you’re taking a break from the piles of examples papers and lab reports! This edition is themed around sustainability, and while some may find it tedious to keep bringing it up, well, it is rather important after all. We’re taking a rather broad approach to this theme on sustainability, because it’s not just about the environment, energy, recycling and all that (though of course, that’s a crucial part of it). Sustainability can be thought of as more about making sure that whatever we do now, we can reasonably expect to continue doing it in the distant future. So with that in mind, we’ve gotten a variety of contributions for this edition: The Institute of Manufacturing (IfM)’s Industrial Sustainability research group has shared a bit about their work. There’s a quick article on water technology and water sustainability, and an interview with Kirsten Henson, a CUED alumna who founded her own sustainability consultancy. Shell (another one of our many sponsors) has also shared about some of the work they’re doing with re-
gards to sustainability in the energy sector. As always, contributions to the magazine are welcome; just drop an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
if you’ve got an idea, or you just want to try something different. Finally, I hope you enjoy this edition of The Cambridge Engineer, and have a good break over Christmas. See you next term! Best wishes, Sze Ning Chng CUES Magazine Editor 2015-2016
3,000km Across the Outback: HOW HARD CAN IT BE?
urtling along the Stuart Highway at 60mph through the midst of the Australian outback isn’t usually what you associate with a degree from the University of Cambridge. Yet every two years, a group of students from across the University head out half way around the world to compete at the biennial World Solar Challenge endurance event in Australia. That’s us – the Cambridge University Eco Racing team, also known as CUER. A team that designs and builds solar powered vehicles for the World Solar Challenge. This is a gruelling endurance competition whereby cars, powered by solar energy, race from Darwin in
the Northern Territory, 3,000km across the punishing outback to Adelaide in the festival state of South Australia. The competition is much more than a test of engineering; although a well-built car is essential for a chance of success, to do well in this event requires a persevering team, superb organisation, and no small amount of ingenuity and quick thinking. Before starting the journey vehicles must undergo strict dynamic and static testing known as ‘scrutineering’. After which follows a demanding 4 – 6 day drive across some of the most remote, inhospitable and striking terrain in the world, whilst contending with soaring temperatures, severe weather and outback
camping. So what do we do for the remainder of the two-year cycle? The process of getting together the car, equipment and most importantly the team, is a complex and multifaceted challenge, requiring team members to fulfil many different and varied roles. Raising enough capital to pay for the team’s ventures requires a dedicated Business team, who work and develop relationships with many well-known corporations and companies. Managing the £500,000 budget is a fundamental element of the team’s financial framework, ensuring that everything stays on budget and doesn’t sky rocket. Partners and sponsors not only provide monetary investments into the team but
further offer a wealth of manufacturing opportunities, professional advice, and design resources in order to safeguard the team’s success.
“The team is grateful for the continuing support of Jaguar Land Rover, Marshall, Penso, Timeless Green, TTP and Viridian Solar. Working on a practical engineering project is an invaluable experience to students many of whom are on theoretical courses.” Programme Director Aurelia Hibbert
In return for sponsors’ support, we participate in events and outreach both nationally and internationally representing the team, as well as the wider solar racing community. Ranging from exhibitions in Monaco, to a sponsor’s preview at BNY Mellon in Central London, we show our vehicles at events across the globe displaying what can be achieved with solar power, and the potential of renewable energy. The behind the scenes work of these events is completed by our dedicated Events and Ops team who ensure the smooth transit and participation of these smaller events, before then focussing their attention on the planning, preparation and execution of the Australian adventure. It’s no mean feat of logistics organising how to get the entirety of a university society, solar car and workshop equipment included, 10,000 miles across the world. Organising the safe passage of the car through air freight is one challenge, but timing this with the arrival of not only the team, but also of the sea freight containing workshop tools and paraphernalia, makes this a much more complicated task. Once located in Australia, further logistical challenges present themselves such a basic needs including accommodating, feeding, and sustaining the team throughout our time in Australia. Ents co-ordinators put together a programme of thrilling team socials and exciting days off to keep the team motivated, and making sure we make the most out of our time down under. At the centre of everything we do is the car itself. Our latest iteration, named Evolution, has been developed from an innovative new
concept prioritising aerodynamic performance – steering away from the traditional ‘table top’ design of most solar cars that prioritise cell surface area. Dedicated Aero, Mechanical and Electrical Chief Engineers run the projects to plan, design and create all the required parts and systems that make the car into what it is today. Working with industrial partners, these project teams work at the cutting edge of technology, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved when professional knowledge comes together with passionate minds. “We are very proud of the Cambridge team who have been bold enough to go their own way, push the boundaries of accepted wisdom and seek innovative and creative solutions to the design conundrums we set.” Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Event Director, Chris Selwood Regardless of what type of engineering you want to pursue, or are specialising in; even regardless of what degree you study, CUER relies on all kinds of people to make the team’s cogs run smoothly. Our involvement with the World Solar Challenge, and the entire Australian adventure, provides a method of getting real world practical experience outside of the bounds of lecture rooms and problem sheets. The next competition in 2017 will be upon us soon, and therefore preparations will begin early next year, so we’ll be looking for a whole new team to come aboard. Joining the team in any capacity will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, so what are you waiting for? Photos provided by CUER
Making a Better Future: EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability magine a world where factories I clean the water they use, where the air is higher quality leaving the
factory than it is coming in, where locally available materials are used in advanced processes to create personalised versions of global products, and where everyone wants to work in factories because they offer the highest value jobs. Well, not only does the world need factories like these, as various international reports have stated, but they can become a reality. The EPSRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability, based at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) â€“ the Manufacturing and Management Division of the Department of Engineering â€“ is a collaboration between academics at the IfM, Cranfield, Imperial College London and
Loughborough and aims to help support and accelerate the transition to this ambitious but necessary vision of the future of manufacturing. Founded in 2011 with funding from the EPSRC and supported by Industry members, networks and organisations, the Centre set about conducting research into key challenges for industrial sustainability â€“ understanding how we can be more efficient today, how the next generation of factories should be designed and managed and how the whole industrial system might change. This research is always done in close contact with industry so that the work is grounded and industrially relevant from the definition of the research challenge to the delivery, packaging and implementa-
Our team: The challenge of industrial sustainability is bigger than anything a single researcher or group can tackle. We bring people from across the research and industrial community together as often as possible to work together.
tion of the knowledge arising from the research. Now, in our fourth year, the EPSRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability is busy taking that hard earned knowledge and turning it into tools that manufacturers can use directly, and with increasing frequency. We are working with our industrial partners on their new factory designs, including the Vitsœ factory in Leamington Spa, a new jeans factory for Saitex that will be ‘net-positive’ (cleaner and more equitable than its inputs) and a benchmark 60,000 staff industrial park for Brandix. Marks & Spencer is using our business model research to guide its efforts to reduce customers’ total clothing waste by 50% while delivering higher value, while Altro and FMCG collaborators are using our new insights on changeovers to make themselves even more eco-efficient. The importance of non-labour resource productivity does not diminish and we are bringing this knowledge into industry and into policy making, while our circularity research has found new and helpful ways to operationalise the popular ‘Circular Economy’ concept and make it practical.
Looking to the near future we can see a number of key trends and have invested in some already. Gamification is an exciting way to communicate knowledge and we are already using this with Airbus. We expect much more modelling content in our future research as we move from identifying the variables that matter to characterising those variables and simulating them. We are using agent-based modelling to explore business models and also real-time data feeds to simulate operation performance under variable conditions. In response to industry demand we have increased our research into sustainable design and into circularity (sometimes together). We are very happy to be supported by knowledgeable and ambitious collaborators, who push us and keep pushing us. If you would like to become one of those partners or simply wish to learn more about us and our work you can find our annual report online at our website www.industrialsustainability.org or contact Ian Bamford, Commercial Director, directly: email@example.com Photos provided by IfM
Water, Water, Everywhere: the role of water in the development of a small island nation
Singapore, a small Southeast Asian island, is naturally water-scarce. However, in the years since indepence, she has transformed into one of the world’s leading hubs for water technology. CY Chua looks into how the bid for water sustainability has driven the state of Singapore’s water technology. ingapore recently celebrated S its 50th birthday. A small island nation, not naturally endowed
with land or water, Singapore has come a long way to become the bustling and thriving business and technology hub that it is today. This country has almost the same area as Greater Manchester but has double the population. If you thought Greater London was crowded, think another 2000 people per square kilometre. While Singapore is known for her transformation from a third world country to a first world country in a mere 50 years, her success story in water management and sustainability could be considered her greatest. Singapore consumes approximately two billion litres of water daily. That fills 720 Olympic size swimming pools and the demand is expected to double in another fifty years. From day one, Singapore realised the importance of water and the need to be self-sufficient. Singapore currently has four ‘National taps’, which are the main water sources - imported water, catchment water, NEWater and desalinated water. Of these four sources, the latter two are less
conventional, and are crucial components of Singapore’s journey towards self-sufficiency. There is simply not enough land to build sufficient water catchment reservoirs and her main source of water, Malaysia, comes with an expiry date - the agreement with Malaysia to sell water ends in 2061. With these pressing concerns in mind, Singapore began her search for sustainable sources of water. The Public Utilities Board (PUB), a government statutory board, was set up in 1963 and put in charge of Singapore’s water supply, drainage, sewerage and water-reclamation plants. Singapore was well ahead of her time from the very beginning. The first water master-plan was drawn in 1972 but due to the high cost and unreliability of membranes for water processing at the time, the idea of reclaiming wastewater was shelved till 1998 when the cost of production was greatly reduced. PUB studied water reclamation projects in the United States and after six months of commissioning its first test plant, developed a technique superior to that of the US.
Singapore developed NEWater, reclaimed and treated wastewater that has been purified by micro filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet techniques. The water is so pure, that although it is fit for human consumption, it is mainly used in industrial processes which require high-purity water, such as wafer fabrication processes and air-conditioning cooling purposes. NEWater has also far exceeded the drinking water standards set by the World Health Organisation and the US Environmental Protection Agency. NEWater meets 30% of Singapore’s water needs and she intends to increase this number to 55% by 2061. NEWater has also helped to put Singapore on the world stage,
earning her the Stockholm Industry Water award in 2007. Desalinated water is the latest to join in the fray in meeting Singapore’s water demands. Producing 30 million gallons of water a day, Singapore’s first desalination plant, which opened in September 2005, is one of the region’s largest seawater reverse osmosis plants. A second desalination plant, Asia’s largest sea-water desalination facility, was opened in 2011 and provides 70 million gallons a day. Together, both desalination plants provide 25% of Singapore’s water demands. Using the same technology utilised in the production of NEWater, the desalination process produces
water which is extremely pure and has to be remineralized. Then, the water is blended with treated water before being supplied to both households and industries for consumption. After years of work to meet her own water demands, Singapore has become an international test bed and a global â€˜hydrohubâ€™ for water technologies. With over 500 R&D projects led by local and foreign companies, it is aimed to increase her water resources, lower the cost of production, improve water quality and the security of the water supply. She is also home to more than seventy water companies and hosts the annual Singapore International Water Week,
which has become a key event for the global water industry. Both NEWater and desalination technologies provide self-sustainable sources of water for the country, making her drought-resilient and reduce exposure to import risks. Production of NEWater and desalinated water is independent of rainfall and the design of the plants can be replicated to efficiently use the limited land area and meet the growing demands. The Chinese view water as a symbol of life and wealth. This cannot be any truer when considering the role that water has played in developing this tiny, water-scarce nation into a leader in water technology.â€˘ Photo of Bedok Reservoir from Wikimedia, chensiyuan/CC-BY-SA-4.0
Driving into a low-carbon future
Climate change may be the biggest threat to our way of life and demands urgent action to cut emissions. At the same time, the world’s population is expected to rise to around 9 billion by mid-century while the number of vehicles could double as millions come out of poverty. Dan Fineren (Shell) speaks to Shell Chief Scientist for Mobility Dr Wolfgang Warnecke about the challenges of helping a fast-growing global population move more efficiently with less carbon dioxide.
r Wolfgang Warnecke leads D Shell’s efforts to find innovative ways to help move more peo-
ple and goods safely, efficiently, and with reduced environmental impact. More people than ever will want to own cars and motorbikes or use public transport, as the world’s population grows and prospers and urbanisation accelerates. What major challenges must be overcome? The big challenge for our future mobility is to reduce emissions from all types of transport. We have to reduce carbon dioxide
(CO2) emissions, which cause global warming, but we also to need to reduce emissions of other air pollutants to improve the quality of the air we breathe, especially in cities. Unfortunately, there’s no single golden solution. Is it the end of the road for the combustion engine? There’s still huge potential for improving combustion engine efficiency, with the help of better fuels and lubricants. Proven technologies that are already available could improve fuel efficiency by
about another 30%, even compared to today’s best engines. The problem is that they are relatively costly. It’s good to see competition from different engine types like electric hybrids, purely electric cars or even hydrogen fuel cells. It stimulates combustion engine engineers to make improvements. What technological advances could improve the sustainability of transport? The problem is that reducing emissions in one part of the fuel chain can mean creating more emissions elsewhere. For example, the mandatory use of low-sulphur diesel fuel as a requirement for low-emission engines has reduced air pollution. But refineries have to use more energy, and therefore emit more CO2, to remove the sulphur. The development of combustion engines that do not create any harmful emissions would change
everything. What about electric cars? Electric cars have one major advantage, which is no air quality harming emission during the use of the vehicle. This could be especially important to clean up the air in inner city areas. But electric vehicles face many challenges: for instance, batteries are still heavy, have limited range and lifetimes and are expensive to make. Lighter, cheaper and more efficient batteries for storing any excess renewable electricity, for example wind and solar, would be a fantastic breakthrough for low-carbon transport. What roles can biofuels and natural gas play? Plants used to make biofuels absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. So, overall, biofuels emit significantly less CO2 than fossil fuels. But the CO2 benefits of biofuels depend on several factors, such as which plant is used and how it is grown. We are also looking at how to make more use of cleaner-burning natural gas – either cooled as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed (CNG). Shell has also developed advanced gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuels which help to reduce local emissions. LNG fuel is cost-competitive and can provide economic and environmental benefits for heavy-duty truck and ship owners. What can consumers do now to improve fuel efficiency and save money at the pump? High fuel costs that we have seen in many countries – often partly due to high taxes – can encourage consumers to invest in more efficient engines to reduce their fuel consumption. Better lubricants
also reduce friction and therefore help cut fuel consumption. Energy companies like Shell must continue to work closely with vehicle manufacturers to develop fuels and lubricants that make engines work more efficiently. Our Shell FuelSave diesel and gasoline, for example, helps engines run more efficiently. We also continuously try to reduce friction losses in engines through less viscous engine oils which include novel base oils and better friction-modifying additives. We’ve just introduced a new engine oil generation to the market that includes Shell PurePlus technology. It contains very pure GTL base oil which helps to reduce friction and fuel consumption. We also have an education campaign to help motorists all over the world save fuel. How do you see transport systems evolving? Mobility will change a lot in the not too distant future. I think one
of the next exciting steps is the auto-piloted vehicle, with some examples already emerging. It’s also very exciting because there are so many fuel, lubricant, engine and car ownership options. We have to understand what combination of transport types will work best in different situations. Maybe we need to move away from using one average family car for everything. Perhaps we will use one type of car for family outings and use small hybrids or electric cars for commuting. We might just rent the type we use less often: we’re already seeing systems in some cities that allow users to rent cars nearby by tapping on a smartphone. I mentioned earlier that there’s still enormous potential to improve the efficiency of combustion engines. With that in mind, I certainly expect engines that run on liquid fuels will continue to make up the backbone of automotive mobility for several decades to come. Photos provided by Shell
A Chat with Kirsten Henson:
founder of KLH Sustainability Kirsten Henson matriculated at King’s College in 1997. After she graduated from CUED’s MEng programme she travelled extensively prior to completing CUED’s MPhil course in Engineering for Sustainable Development. In 2006, she started work on the London Olympic programme and four years later she founded KLH Sustainability, a sustainability consultancy in London. Sze Ning Chng sat down with her and her colleague, Abby Crisostomo, a new member of their now six-member team, for a chat about sustainability and engineering. o, the basics, how did you S come to do a degree in engineering, and how did you go on from there? Kirsten: I applied to Cambridge because it was expected of me. After choosing to apply to King’s my school told me that they didn’t usually encourage girls to apply to King’s (I went to a public school), but they thought I’d fit in there. I took that as a compliment. I was lucky to happen upon an elective during my MEng year called “Engineering for Sustainable Development”. It was the first time the course had been run. I still remember Professor Peter Guthrie coming in and stating, “Engineers! You influence the society in which we live, every decision you make impacts on the natural environment. It’s your responsibility.” And suddenly I thought, “That’s it. That’s why I want to be an en-
gineer.” I travelled for two and half years after graduation, but stayed in touch with Peter Guthrie. When I was finally ready to return to England I asked Peter what I should do to get back into the world of work. He had just launched a new MPhil course at Cambridge and suggested I apply. That Master’s degree changed my perception of Cambridge and changed my perception of what university’s about. The course was structured to maximise learning from the other students. The sheer range of people in terms of technical backgrounds and nationality made for an incredibly diverse and engaging classroom. Studying engineering at Cambridge helped me, as a young female engineer working in sustainability to gain respect on the construction site. I was often asked
Entire KLH staff. From left to right: Kirsten Henson, Rosa López Ibarra, Chloé Souque, Kristina Arsenievich, Samantha Connolly, Abby Crisostomo
“What did you study?” closely followed by “Where?” The combination of “Engineering” and “Cambridge” gave me a seat at the table. It is an automatic validation of your skills. Sustainability isn’t a topic just limited to engineers. I think a technical or analytical background is a great advantage, but it doesn’t necessarily dictate your career path. One of the big projects we are working on at the moment is East Wick and Sweetwater, a new zero carbon neighbourhood in East London. Abby’s educational background is in planning and law, and as we are just going through the planning at the moment, she’s a perfect fit with the team. She can expand her technical knowledge of sustainable construction as the project progresses. Now that’s not saying an engineer couldn’t do it, but it doesn’t have to be an engineer. So, how did you eventually decide to start your own business? How did that happen? Kirsten: After the MPhil, I was with Buro Happold, and they were
working with the EDAW Consortium on the Olympic master plan. It wasn’t quite my first job or my first project, but near enough, so the opportunity was massive. Then I joined the Olympic Delivery partner, CLM. As the project progressed, I watched other people come in above me as sustainability manager and take on management roles. I was frustrated at being overlooked for the key positions despite having a great reputation on site and with the client. I remember sitting there, in the site cabin, and thinking, “If I’m 40, and I am still sat in a project office (admittedly on one of the highest profile jobs in the world), working for somebody else, and I haven’t given this a go, I’m going to be really annoyed with myself.” I don’t even know whether I had a clear agenda as to what I wanted to achieve, but I thought I’d give it a go, which is exactly what I did. I’m obviously a comfortable risk taker, but I’m an engineer, so I evaluate the risks, I understand the risks. I was in a good position. I’d been well-paid for two years, I had
The inside of the Olympic Stadium Transformation project.KLH manages sustainability at the stadium for the contractor, Balfour Beatty, as they tra
a little bit of money in the bank, I didn’t have a family to look after, I had an affordable mortgage and a had an incredible list of contacts from my work on the Olympics. So it was a case of what have I got to lose? I reasoned that if it failed, nobody was going to refuse to employ me because I was not successful in a new business venture. I don’t think there is any employer, that will look unfairly upon somebody who has that sort of spirit. Now, luckily enough, it didn’t fail and I think that was largely because one of my key strengths is people. Whereas a lot of the sustainability team knew the environmental managers and sustainability managers, I knew the project directors, I knew the guys on site, I knew the subcontractors, I knew the guys that sat in Canary Wharf and ran the project. They knew me, so I had the network that I needed, which was fundamental to success. So the ultimate driver behind setting up the business was the frustration I felt of not being recognised by management for what I was doing and feeling that I would never be given that level of respon-
sibility that I really wanted. So now I run a business that employs five other women [laughs]. Which, in itself was never intentional. I did employ a chap, but it didn’t work out. But then I’ve also hired and fired a woman in the last few years! I think there is this level of challenge that really says something about the women that choose to go into the construction industry. They’re already fighters. They’re already incredibly strong women, because they have to be. I want those kinds of people on my team. I need those kind of people on my team. So they’re almost self-selecting in the first instance. That said, as far as I’m concerned, I try and find the best person for the job, regardless. I think setting up the business was a lot to do with my own frustration in this industry and I’m really determined to take ambitious people, and make sure they don’t fall out of the construction industry because they have experienced similar frustrations. I want KLH to be that support network that says, you can achieve,
ansform it from its Olympics to its legacy use.
and you can excel. I want to recognise that it can be really hard at times and there will be some days where you just want to hide under you duvet and stay in bed. And that’s okay! That is fine! Because I do that, too. I had a question from a friend recently who asked, “So, Kirsten you sound like you’re living a fabulous life now, how have you managed that?” And all I had to say to him was, I gave up my personal life for five years. I sacrificed so much: sleep, health, relationships. It is draining, it is absolutely exhausting. Nobody should go into starting up a business thinking it will be easy. I read a quote recently that said something along the lines of “Entrepreneurs spend years living a life that nobody would want, to live a life everybody desires”. Now I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m a small business owner, I don’t believe I’m an entrepreneur but the sentiment is the same. Sustainability as a concern has been on the table for quite a few years now, so what is it that you think people are missing, that it
has yet to become as major and mainstream as it should be? Kirsten: At least now all of the big construction firms know about it. They know they need to be tackling it. They know they need to be making statements around it. But ten years ago, the London Olympics really were pioneers in what they were trying to do. People just didn’t know about sustainability, they saw you coming through the door and thought you were some sort of tree hugger. So having a technical background helps. I think now, coming into the construction industry, in this generation, it’s still a challenge. But at least people understand the concept of biodiversity and water efficiency and green infrastructure, responsible sourcing… Abby: When you think about the definition of sustainability, it’s supposed to incorporate all things. It’s supposed to incorporate the economic side, the social side, and the environmental side, but I do think that still, people think of it more on the environmental side. And I think that is the biggest thing right now. Part of it too is that it’s such a
vague, big concept, that the average person on the team doesn’t really understand what that means, how that translates into their daily job. Kirsten: That’s the point actually, the translation. Where we got real engagement in the early days on the Olympics, was a case of “these are the high level objectives, but don’t let that scare you”. Because, you’re doing block work, and this is what it means to you. You’re designing the water system; this is what it means to you. Actually helping to interpret those conflicting, complex requirements into specifics gives people ownership, and it becomes part of their day to day work. I think that’s why we love it. Because you can think so big. You touch on everything. But in order to deliver it, at some point you’ve got to stop and make it a reality. So perhaps that’s one of the reasons why sustainability isn’t where it is—it’s too big to tackle. There is another side too. A lot of people say legislation needs to drive sustainability. But as consumers, we can make an incredibly strong statement. At the end of the day, people will only invest in development if people want to buy what is being developed. I often read these days that the younger generation are looking for something different. A job isn’t just about money. It is about the opportunities, it is about whom they work with, it’s about the flexibility, the work-life balance, and that’s a completely different shift in the last couple of generations. So things are changing. But it’s whether people hold those values and that knowledge, or whether they slip back in to the old ways of doing things.
Two new buildings being built in St. James’s Market for The Crown 22KLH is the sustainability manager on site. Estate.
KLH worked on the Sky Broadcasting campus masterplan
How has it been like for you as a woman in engineering, and how has that changed? Kirsten: Actually now, it depends on who you work with. If you’re working with architects, they do really well with the gender ratio. Engineering, consulting engineers are getting better. As soon as you get to the construction site, as soon as you get to the contractors and the supply chain, the gender balance is non-existent. I have to keep reminding myself actually I’ve only been doing this for ten years, so it’s not a huge amount of time but I don’t think things have changed much. And that is what I find so depressing, so disappointing. I often sit down with some of the young women coming into engineering, into construction and I hear the same stories, the same frustrations, the same barriers, the same comments, and I get really upset about it, because I think, we haven’t changed. At each decision-making point through education, more and more women drop out. And then
when they do finally get into the industry they last a few years before they go, “I’m done! I can’t cope with this.” What has changed in the last ten years is the proliferation of networks for women in the industry. Abby and I actually met at one of these events, Urbanistas. Which, by its name and the fact that it’s run by women, attracts women but none of their literature suggests it’s a female-only society. It’s a very different environment when you walk into that sort of forum, there is no ego. I am quite confident in who I am now, and where I am in the industry, so I’m quite happy to walk into a room full of men and just be comfortable. I am who I am. I’m actually an engineer, and I’m a business owner. And yes, I am a woman as well, but, that doesn’t define who I am. So how did you find your time in Cambridge? Any memorable things? People? Kirsten: Peter Guthrie. He’s the reason why I’m still an engineer.
A rendering of the new East Wick and Sweetwater neighbourhoods being developed at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
And I think he probably knows that. He helped me find my first job, he helped me find my second job and he was a great supporter when I decided to set up the business. Having a mentor like that is so important. In terms of people, I’ve also got two girl friends from university that I keep in touch with. We each value the relationship incredibly highly. Partly because of the shared experience, but also because of our ability to talk freely about so many different subjects. One friend works in public health, and the sustainability aspects there are strong: how do you stop people from going into hospital? How do you deal with the obesity crisis? And of course, how do you all do that without much money? The similarities between the challenges in two seemingly disparate industries have always
amazed us. And any advice for undergraduates? Networking seems to be something you really believe in. Kirsten: Pretty much. And one of the reasons that I was really attracted to Abby as a member of staff is because she had the ability to network. She also understands social networking. I hate to say it, but Twitter confuses me. Abby? Loves Twitter. And it’s beneficial to us, the number of, the number of new...? Abby: Followers? Kirsten: Thank you. Is increasing. It’s exponential, because we are more active on Twitter, more people engage. The key to networking is understanding that you only have so much time and the aim is not to meet everybody in the room. It’s about meeting ten people in the room, and making sure that at
an interest, forms a much, much stronger relationship. Engineers particularly, need to get out of their “this is my computer” bubble. There will be some people who will only ever be comfortable with that. And if that’s the level of their ambition, then fine. But if there’s a genuine desire and ambition to progress and become a leader, then you have to get out from behind the computer, you have to talk to people, you have to be willing to put yourself out there.
least three of those people connect with you afterwards, or you connect with them, and you know why you’re connecting with them. So when you start out, network, but don’t spread yourself too thinly. I only needed one person to help me start my career. So you don’t need to know everybody. Once you get your first job, then you can look at knowing everybody! Abby: I used to hate it networking. When I first started out, I did it all wrong and I hated it. I was always trying to meet the top person, and I was just a student. It doesn’t work and it’s not fun either. But when I finally figured all that out, it made it a lot more fun. Kirsten: You need to be able to talk to people on a non technical level. I’m not a small talk person, I do like to get down to business, but an element of small talk is necessary. Knowing a little bit about someone’s personal life, taking
And how do you see the progress of women in the engineering? Kirsten: I think the value of women is understood. Women think differently, they see things differently and if you can tap into that value, they can offer an alternative view of the same issues. I think the industry is slowly starting to realise that in order to get the best out of everybody, you have to manage everybody as an individual. You can’t just say they’re men so you manage them like that, they’re women so you manage them like that. There’s a whole range of people, from the manly man, to the girly, girly woman. And we all fit somewhere on that spectrum, and each person needs managing slightly differently. The awareness is getting there. The future is bright for women in the industry, but it’s still a fight. Any final comments on sustainability? Kirsten: It’s not going away. Abby: There’s still a lot of opportunity. Even with the change in regulation, people are becoming more aware of it, but most don’t know where to start.
Kirsten: I think that’s where engineers can stand out. If you have the engineering brain which is very technical and very process orientated, and if you can combine that with the skill set of communication, of holistic thinking, of balancing tradeoffs, the two of them are so powerful. And we certainly don’t see enough engineers in sustainability, in the broader sense. You might find some service engineers that are doing a bit of sustainability, but you very rarely find sustainability consultants whose first degree is in engineering. It would a huge benefit to sustainability, to the agenda as a whole because sustainability has got to be backed up by a sound technical logic
Engineers do have a certain kudos. In society, we undervalue engineers, but in the design, construction and development industry, I think engineers are quite highly valued. But you’ve got to be an engineer that can communicate. It’s a simple thing, but it can make you exceptional. There are plenty of engineers who are great technically, but struggle to communicate what they are doing. If you can do both, you’ll fly. The opportunity is ripe. It will always be a fight, it is always going to be a challenge, but that is why we enjoy it! • Photos provided by KLH Sustainability, Abby Crisostomo
1Based on Fortune 500 ranking 2011. Copyright © 2014 Schlumberger. All rights reserved.
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We are the world’s largest oilfield services company1. Working globally—often in remote and challenging locations—we invent, design, engineer, and apply technology to help our customers find and produce oil and gas safely.
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Presentations are on most Tuesdays and Thursdays in LR4, from 1 pm to 2 pm. Hereâ€™s the list of companies who will be dropping by this term! Do come by, have a listen, and grab a bite! 3 Nov (Tue) 5 Nov (Thu) 10 Nov (Tue) 17 Nov (Tue) 19 Nov (Thu) 24 Nov (Tue) 1 Dec (Tue)
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The Official Cambridge University Engineering Society Magazine, Michaelmas 2015