This one is for all the women in leadership and for all the current and budding engineers. I met Susan and loved her story, from having a female Head of Science at school who went out of her way to support Susan to choose engineering as a degree to teaching her 15 year-old daughter what an engineer does. Susan has been loyal to IQE for 30 years and has a wonderful story of how she has been supported from day one and progressed her career from engineer to Group Commercial Director. A great read for a Sunny Tuesday ?
Hi Susan, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, can we kick off by telling us a little bit about what your day to day looks like?
I am Group Commercial Director for IQE’s sites in Taiwan, UK and USA. Some days start early working with the Taiwan team before spending time in meetings and correspondence with the UK team. From approximately midday the same begins with my team and customers in the USA. As a team we are responsible for specification and quote preparation, order processing, export compliance work, production order scheduling, capacity planning, customer-supplier meetings. I also attend leadership meetings and assist with continuous improvement projects, there is a lot of variety in my day-to-day work.
You have been with IQE for 30 years which is mega and something you don’t see that often anymore. Can you tell us about your journey over those 30 years? (how it all started to now as commercial director)
In the final months of my Undergraduate Degree my parents sent me an article from the local press in South Wales. It talked about the growth of IQE, a relatively new high-tech start-up, and I was excited that my chosen specialism of Semiconductor Physics and Business Studies overlaid so well with their business and niche product. I sent my CV and introduced myself. I received a reply inviting me to “drop in for a chat”, which culminated in my CV being placed on file. A few weeks later I was invited back to “discuss an opportunity that might be of interest”. The rest is 30 years of history. I joined IQE in 1990 as an engineer in their R&D dept during which time I also studied remotely to gain a PhD from Cardiff University. I’ve worked for IQE in Technical Sales, Logistics, Quality, Customer Service, Commercial and Operational planning, holding a management position in the last five roles.
Based on your success story with IQE, any advice you would give young females about to start their career or those still in the early years of their career?
I would say I found IQE rather than they found me. I never expected any opportunity to just land at my feet and I’d encourage young females to be confident when applying for roles for which they may not be the ‘obvious choice’. It’s good to remember that Companies and teams work better with a diversity of skills, experience and knowledge, make sure you sell your individuality! I’m proud of IQE for having the courage to consider and then recruit a female engineer 30 years ago and I’m very proud of the length of my career with them. IQE had a 6% increase in female hires in 2020 which is fantastic. We are working with universities and schools to further increase female applications.
You spoke about having a female head of Science department when studying your A-levels. Do you think that it helped having a female teacher to show you that science and engineering is more diverse than you may have first thought?
Very much so. When making my A-level choices I struggled, like many 15-year olds I suspect, to decide on a career path, really only knowing what I didn’t want, for example, anything to do with languages or biology! My female Head of Science went out of her way to make me consider the opportunities an engineering degree might offer, how I could tailor my A-level choices to succeed and at a later date she also helped me with University applications. She had a great faith in me which was extremely encouraging! Talking about her now it seems she was a fantastic STEM ambassador long before that became an official role.
From your experience as a mum and talking to your daughter recently whether she has considered engineering as a career, what do you think Schools can do to support and get more young women to consider a career in STEM?
I think Secondary Schools need to incorporate more real-life career advice into subject lessons. My relationship with my Physics teacher meant I could see the longer-term value in the subject field and the connection to a career, as opposed to learning for the sake of learning. My 15-year-old daughter said “I don’t know what an engineer does”. I told her engineering covers so many roles within so many industries, ranging from high-tech clean room environments like IQE to the opposite end of the spectrum in industries such as Oil. I’ve told her there is no reason she shouldn’t consider a career in any of these professions although, from a purely selfish viewpoint, I’d rather she didn’t move to the North Sea!
Being a female in leadership within the engineering world, we all know the statistics within technology and engineering and the lack of females in senior positions. What advice would you give to companies to encourage more diversity at a senior level?
I’m encouraged by the numbers on your website “35% of STEM students were Women in 2018”. I started my degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Warwick University in 1987, as 1 of 3 females in a course intake of 75 students. I’ve had to accept being a minority during my study and working years. I have trusted people to recognise me for my abilities rather than my gender and I’m pleased to say this has mostly been true. Any negativities that I have experienced, have strengthened my resilience and stubbornness to have faith in my abilities and rise above any prejudice.
Companies that have females in roles that have historically been male dominated, should be encouraged to showcase this diversity at schools, career fairs and open days. Progressing to a senior role in any Company, whether male of female, requires hard work and a desire to succeed. However, I strongly believe that all roles should be accessible to all, irrespective of gender. Speaking, as a working mother, the fact that IQE rewarded hard work with flexibility when I needed to balance work and family life influenced my choice to stay and dedicate my career to them. Companies need to be aware of the diverse needs of all their employees and adapt their Company culture and work environment to ensure the longevity of the employee-employer relationship.
Please share your wisdom, please provide a mantra or quote that you live by or just like?
I don’t really remember quotes but I do try to live by The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like others to treat you.
Whatever their gender the qualities that impress me in a Leader (and I also aim to live by) are fairness, humility and integrity. I believe that irrespective of gender or seniority, these values build respect and respect builds strong, efficient and successful teams.
Thank you Susan for sharing your story, a lot to take from it and some very good words of wisdom.. you rock! #womenrock
A voice for diversity in Tech & Engineering <3