International Women in Engineering Day - Meet Coleen

International Women in Engineering Day - Meet Coleen

The theme of this year’s INWED is ‘Make Safety Seen’. Is that relevant to your role as Projects Manager at FoundOcean?

Definitely! I can be in charge of leading a team offshore which can include the safety side of things, from writing the Risk Assessments, leading ‘Toolbox Talks’, and undertaking the HAZIDs/HAZOPs. I have to be a champion of safety both on and offshore. If I’m going out on a project, the first thing I need to do is a safety walk around the vessel with the Vessel Manager after the FoundOcean equipment is mobilised.


What led you to study Engineering at University?

I always enjoyed and did well at STEM subjects like Maths, Physics and Technological studies. I went to Grangemouth High School and while I was there, I was awarded the Arkwright Scholarship in Engineering – I was the first person in the school to win one of these scholarships. I went through a selection process, and then as soon as I had done my Highers and Advanced Highers I went off to the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) … and I got a first-class honours degree in engineering (BENG hons) and came first in my class. I then went on to do further post graduate studies in project management, finite element analysis, and computational fluid dynamics.


Were you the only female in your engineering lectures?

Yes, I suppose I was! But I’m not sure I really noticed that much. I did quite a few project modules as part of my course, and there were other girls in those lectures, so I don’t think I paid that much attention to the makeup of the classes – I was just happy learning and studying engineering.


What jobs in engineering did you have before you came to FoundOcean?

I started off in a graduate position with a subsea firm in the Oil & Gas industry and moved to Aberdeen. I specialised in subsea design and analysis, especially CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and FEA (Finite Element Analysis).

After 7 years, I moved to a company that designs pumps and valves for power stations, offshore use and in the mining sector – a complete change.  I have always wanted to keep learning and have new challenges. It's here I got a good background on the financing and contractual side of projects.

I then moved on to a company that specialises in deck equipment such as winches, HPU’s and overboarding systems for offshore and led design, manufacture, and fabrication projects.

I think I’ve been fortunate to have real breadth in my previous jobs. I’ve been very involved in manufacturing and fabrication, design, testing, quality, health & safety, contracts and financials. That has given me a good awareness of different aspects of engineering.


What is your role at FoundOcean?

As Projects Manager I’m the Line Manager for all the engineers at FoundOcean which include project engineers of all levels from graduate to principal engineers and the design team. Obviously, it also involves the management of all the FoundOcean projects! I have been here for two years now and I’m pretty sure I was the first technical female in the company. I have had some great jobs before, but FoundOcean is my favourite! I definitely don’t feel as if I need to be ‘outperforming’ the men here, it’s very inclusive and gender is not a factor. And things have been really busy in the time I have been here – I have a team of 12 now.


What do you like best about your job?

Lots of things. I enjoy the progression of a project – I have to have the technical knowledge and solve engineering problems but then also understand the commercial and financial side of the scope as well. It’s not just about the engineering and can you make the design or concept work? It’s about the safety, the environmental impact, the commercial viability – can you do it within a specified budget, or at a price people will be happy to pay for it?

I like being able to talk to clients and having confidence in my knowledge base. And I have definitely enjoyed moving up into more of a management role – being able to make decisions, make an impact and try to incorporate change.

Sometimes I go offshore with the projects, and really enjoy the offshore aspect of my job which can mean being away for several weeks at a time. It’s great to be offshore and see the completion of a project for example when you see the last jacket on a wind farm being completed and you have been involved from the outset, it’s a great feeling to see what you and everyone at FoundOcean have achieved.


What do you see as your key strengths?

Probably all the problem-solving and the ability to progress scopes. Can you actually make a design, a project or a concept work? And how much will it cost? Is it going to be cost-effective? All the logistics and preparations. Can you get the materials? Not just can you make it, but can you move it? How are you going to get it offshore? I actually enjoy all the testing – mathematical and physical. I also feel I can get the job done under pressure and be able to multitask quite well.


Do you feel there are particular qualities as a woman you bring to your job?

I think it’s really important to have diversity in your workforce, different personalities, different attributes. I know that I am very driven as a person. I suppose what some would see as perhaps good female qualities are knowing how to manage people to bring out their strengths and help them overcome weaknesses. I definitely want people to love what they do and enjoy their work.


What do you think companies like FoundOcean can do to encourage more young women to take up careers in engineering?

I think it all starts at school age, getting more girls to enjoy studying STEM subjects and wanting to carry them on at University. I am now the STEM Ambassador at FoundOcean, and so we want to do more talks for young people, visit schools or attend Careers Fairs. I think more needs to be done to remove the stigma about working in a male-dominated industry – it would be great to get more females to come and see what we do, and talk to us about our experience, and what an engineer does.

There are some great opportunities for travel because we are working in a global industry. I’m just back from a Health & Safety event in France, and next month I am in the States visiting a client. You can make very decent money, have a mix of time onshore and offshore, with plenty of flexibility. If I decide I want to start a family at some stage, I have no qualms about being able to balance being a parent with doing my job at FoundOcean. And it would be great to get more females involved in engineering. When it comes to recruitment, it will always be about finding the best person for the job, male or female wouldn’t matter.


What would you say to any young female engineers thinking about a career at FoundOcean?

Come and see! Come and learn more about what is involved. Come on a summer placement. Or take a look at our Careers page – we have openings for graduates such as Associate Engineers. See the opportunity and just go for it! Even if you are just out of Uni. We will have senior team members as mentors to our young starters, so if you are interested in a career in engineering, you couldn’t find a more welcoming place to work than FoundOcean!