Women In Engineering

My Engineering Journey from Space to CNC Machining by Bethia Page

August 12, 2021

How did you get into engineering?

"In high school I wanted to be an astronaut. I looked up the best career path for going into space, and found that it was to get an electrical engineering degree."

"This led me to spend a lot of time looking at various areas of study in engineering. When I finished my A-levels, I decided not to go straight to university but to look for work locally."

"I was taken on at an engineering company who, after a few weeks, offered to train me formally as an apprentice machinist."

Women In Engineering

Why did you join Milltech Precision Engineering?

"My apprenticeship went well and I picked up a lot of responsibility in my first job as I gained practical knowledge and programming experience. Eventually I came to the point where I wanted more of a challenge, and to work in a bigger company. So I came to Milltech about a year and a half ago so I could continue building my skills."

What do you find most challenging about being an engineer?

"The most challenging part is when the process doesn’t work as expected and the cause of the problem can’t be found – you can run the same program, on the same machine, with the same tools, and have problems that didn’t exist before. It can take a lot of patience, and in the end usually only requires a minor adjustment of the right variable to tweak things to run smoothly and reliably."

What is your typical day?


"A typical day depends on what my machines are doing – if I have a new job to set up, I will check the material, review the program (if the job has been done before) or write one if needed.

I will check if the necessary tools are available and set the machine to accept the material. Once the tools are all correctly set in the machine, I can prove the program out, making any adjustments required for the part to be produced to specification.

Before commencing the production run, the part is approved by the Quality department. After the process has been approved, I’ll monitor the machine for consistency and efficiency. When the machines are running, I either help the team in the turning section to keep everything running, or move on to the next setup."

cnc milling

What advice do you have for anyone looking to be a CNC machinist?

"I would advise them to do some research and find a company with a good reputation that is local to them. Look up what the job involves – there are a lot of videos online. A position as an apprentice is a great start for anyone who is able to start at a junior level, or else a job as an operator or loader can be a great foot in the door. My main advise is to ask plenty of questions of coworkers who are knowledgeable and work to a high standard; people are very generous with their time and sharing what they know. Don’t be embarrassed to ask about what you don’t know, everyone has started from the same place. Be sure to write it all down too!"

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

"I can’t imagine where I will be in five years’ time!

Five years ago I was programming 3 axis fixed head lathes – now I’m programming and setting 9 axis sliding head machines."

Women In Engineering

women in engineering

What is it like to be a woman in engineering?

"Most of the time I don’t feel like an anomaly in a male-dominated industry; I’m good at my job, it suits my skills set, and I get on really well with my team. However, especially when I was starting out and didn’t know what any tools were called when I had to find them to set up, I used to remember the saying “for a woman to get half as much credit as a man, she has to work twice as hard”. I’ve always pushed myself to do an excellent job and make sure people know I can pull my weight; more than one person has expressed their surprise that I’m willing to get my hands dirty! I’ve been asked more than a few times “why am I here” in a factory, to which my answer is always that this is what I’m good at, so where else would I be working?"

What challenges do women face in engineering

"Entry into the industry is the first barrier – while things are changing, engineering of any sort isn’t really presented as a career path to girls. There are plenty of article detailing the “leaky pipeline” of the STEM workforce, before women have even reached the workplace. Once at work, a whole host of issues that disproportionately affect women, from the need for flexible working, to lack of role models, to harassment, mean that a lot of women don’t stay in the industry or rise to seniority as long as they would have otherwise. I would love to see higher proportion of women in engineering, challenging stereotypes of what an engineer looks like, and making workplaces more diverse and welcoming. In manufacturing, this could look like specifically inviting girls to apply for apprenticeships, for example, and then providing them with mentoring and support through their early career."

women in engineering

What are your hopes for the future of engineering?

"I hope engineering can help provide solutions to some of the most pressing global issues, such as food scarcity, pollution and climate change. I know that wherever innovations are made, women will be on the forefront."

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