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Power company duo light up Top 50 Women in Engineering list

Two bright lights from the UK’s largest electricity distributor have been recognised among the Top 50 Women in Engineering: Returners and Transferrers.

From Press releases - 25 June 2018 12:00 AM

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UK Power Networks’ operations manager, Samantha Burchell and Kellie Dillon, from the company’s innovation team, earned the honour from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) when the list was published in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday after International Women in Engineering Day (on June 23).

Samantha’s team is responsible for keeping the lights on for 230,000 homes and businesses across the Croydon area. She leads the experienced technical teams, including engineers and 60 field staff that run the electricity network round the clock.

Samantha said: “Every day is different. Power cuts are rare but sometimes we face power cuts affecting many of our customers and that is when my adrenalin kicks in and my problem-solving comes to the fore. Like the rest of my team I have worked on standby, restoring electricity supplies in the middle of the night when I’m tired, it’s raining hard and dark. Now, with management responsibilities, I attend more meetings, but I still like being hands-on in emergencies.

“I never thought in a million years that I’d be an area manager, doing a job like this. The work has exceeded all my expectations. I am conscious of the responsibilities I have got. I manage a large team and budget and look after 230,000 customers – and I absolutely love it.”

Samantha started her career in clerical and safety roles, with qualifications in languages that were not relevant to engineering and spent several years re-training to gain the skills needed to achieve her ambition of becoming an electrical engineer.

She added: “Just to be nominated was amazing, but when I found out I had made the Top 50, I was blown away, I couldn’t believe it. I am very lucky that I love my job, love what I do every day and I am very passionate about my role. My work gives me a feeling of great satisfaction and I encourage any women thinking of joining engineering roles to grasp the opportunity and go for it.”

Mother-of-three Kellie works at UK Power Networks’ head office in London and lives with her family in Bexleyheath. Having started her career in retail, her current role is to enable more renewable energy to come on-stream, and save people money by helping deliver innovative solutions to their power needs – all a world away from where she started out.

Kellie said: “My career has moved from helping customers in the world of retail, to helping renewable energy generators connect to the electricity grid – and you could say I am completely sold on my current career.

“My working life began in 1992 as a trainee at a flagship department store in Oxford Street, learning how the retail business flowed – and the importance of great customer service.

“In 2001, I took maternity leave to have my first daughter and six months later I was back. I am lucky to have a very supportive family so was able to leave my daughter with my mum. 2004 saw the arrival of my twin daughters, and after evaluating time versus money I returned to work one day a week.

“In 2006 my mum offered to take care of my girls so I could return to work full-time. I searched for a local job and started as an Administration Assistant for an energy company before training myself up to become Personal Assistant.”

After UK Power Networks began in 2010, Kellie became a Distributed Generation Business Analyst for the company in 2013, before switching to her present role in the Innovation team last year.

She added: “All this never crossed my mind when I was at school but I absolutely love my job and I am passionate about girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). My eldest daughter smashed her GCSEs achieving nine A*s and three grade 9s. She is currently completing 5 A-levels and hopes to go to Cambridge or Oxford to study Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Cyber Security.

“There still aren’t as many women as men in engineering but one of the projects I am on is 67% women, so the tables are turning. If you are willing to learn, dedication and hard work will see you thrive.”

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is an annual event developed and coordinated by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate the achievements of women in engineering and inspire younger generations. INWED began as a national celebration in 2014, but after much international interest, the day became a global celebration for the first time in 2017. It takes place on 23 June – the date of the foundation of WES in 1919. For more details go to www.inwed.org.uk

Kirsten Bodley, chief executive, WES, said: “We had a very strong field of nominations for the theme of Returners and Transferrers for this year’s Top 50 Women in Engineering demonstrating the amazing achievements of women in engineering – all should be congratulated.

“There were some very inspiring stories, including Kellie and Samantha’s into exciting and worthwhile careers, demonstrating that engineering is truly for everyone. For INWED this year we are #Raisingthebar to highlight the step change needed to enable more women to progress and succeed.”

UK Power Networks has received a further accolade with Giulia Privitera, Low Carbon Technologies Delivery Manager, having been selected as one of the 20 young women for the ‘She is sustainable: energy pioneers’ initiative led by the Green Alliance with support from EPSRC and UKERC: https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/she_is_sustainable_energy_pioneers.php.