Women in Engineering Day: in profile

2 mins read

June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day, which aims to raise the profile of female engineers across the globe. Here, MM speaks to Dr Connie Wilson, senior systems engineer at BAE Systems Naval Ships, who has recently returned to the industry after a 16-year career break.

Connie’s current role as BAE Systems Senior Systems Engineer on Type 26, Connie is responsible for the Meteorological and Oceanographic system which collates and analyses the environmental information that the ship is operating in.

However, her early career with BAE Systems started in 1998 in Christchurch, Dorset, as a Software Engineer and Human Computer Interface Team Leader on the BOWMAN project - a command and control communication management system which allowed frontline soldiers to maintain tactical radio communication with other Forces.

During this early part of her career Connie opted to undertake a Doctorate with Bournemouth University and also secured her Chartered Engineer qualification. As part of her Doctorate, she looked into ways to resolve knowledge management issues within the company using leading-edge technology. Forming a link with Microsoft USA, who visited the site and assisted her in the application of the technology, the research was shared across the business to assist in future developments.

Subsequently, in 2001 Connie moved into a Project Management role for Sampson Radar, which was a multi-function radar for the Type 45 Ship which tracks air and sea targets and its own missiles during flight, while also providing data for the maintenance of air and surface pictures. It is a state-of-the-art piece of technology and one of the leading radars in this field.

During this time, Connie also acted as a STEM ambassador and mentor for BAE Systems apprentices and graduates upon joining the business, offering advice and guidance to develop their skills and roles within the company.

She made the decision to leave BAE Systems in 2002 to spend time with family and raise her two daughters. She had always intended to return to a career in STEM soon after having children, however this career break extended to 16 years after her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She therefore spent much of this time helping her father to care for her mother, before she sadly passed away in 2016.

After a period of bereavement, Connie began to re-visit the possibility of returning to the world of STEM in 2017. After applying for a multitude of jobs with no response or feedback, she decided to contact the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for support and was put in touch with the Women’s Engineering Society, who in turn re-connected Connie with BAE Systems.

In January 2018, BAE Systems, having recognised the potential that returners could bring, offered Connie her current role as Senior Systems Engineer on the design and build of Type 26.

Since returning, she has become an active STEM Ambassador again, utilising her Postgraduate Teaching Certificate to encourage and inspire girls to consider STEM careers.

Connie said: “After 16 years away from the business, it was great to know that my previous experience was still of value and felt fantastic to be welcomed back to BAE Systems with open arms. I’m extremely passionate about inspiring the next generations of young people to pursue a career in engineering, but also showing men and women who have taken a career break that as a professional experienced engineer you can return back to STEM irrespective of how long you have been away from it.”