Suzanne, Engineering, UK

Suzanne is a qualified engineer and leader in our Global Manufacturing and Supply organisation.

Suzanne getting her picture taken
Suzanne, Engineering, UK

I always wanted to be an engineer. But the journey to getting my Bachelor of Engineering was perhaps not the most traditional. I didn’t study physics at school, and was told by my teachers that as a result, I would never be able to do an engineering degree. I’d been interested in manufacturing since being a small child, visiting the mills in Yorkshire where my father worked, so to be told that I wouldn’t be able to pursue the degree of my choice was a huge blow.

As luck would have it, my chemistry teacher, Mr Nichols, overheard the conversation. He pulled me to one side and recommended a three-day summer school at Bradford University, run in conjunction with Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). I jumped at the opportunity, and with Mr Nichols' helping hand and encouragement from my parents, I began to realise that anything was possible.

It was this realisation that has been one of the most important influences in helping me to navigate my career.

What advice would I give to young women considering a career in engineering?

Embrace your weaknesses, as often these can be your biggest strengths. Yes, I was at a disadvantage by not studying physics at school, but I overcame this through sheer persistence. When I graduated, the UK was in the grip of recession. Of the 45 or so people on my course, only ten were offered jobs. But me? I had three job offers, largely because employers recognised that I had overcome adversity to get my degree and in doing so, had set myself apart from other candidates.

Joining GSK in 1992 as a female engineer, I spent my early years hiding my emotions because again, I thought they might be seen as a sign of weakness.  However, as my career has progressed and I’ve taken on a wide range of roles, the ability to build relationships and influence people has become increasingly important. The ability to express my emotions has been a key part of truly connecting with people and a large part of my success.

I believe that girls who think they may be at a disadvantage by doing engineering may actually have an advantage

Why am I telling you this?

Because I believe that girls who think they may be at a disadvantage by doing engineering may actually have an advantage. There’s no doubt that engineering can at times be a daunting field for young women to enter, but this shouldn’t stop anyone. I would urge any young woman who is truly interested in an engineering career to embrace adversity, celebrate what makes them different and simply go for it!

Thanks to engineering, I have a fascinating career which allows me to spend my days leading teams of people who make medicines for patients across the globe. Not bad for someone who was told they could never get an engineering degree.