Tomorrow is International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED17), and this week we’re celebrating some of our female academics and students on our Twitter and Facebook pages. At Birmingham City University we are committed to advancing the careers of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM), and we recently won an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, honouring our work in combating gender inequality.
We interviewed Liliana Lauko, one of our Engineering students who did a year-long placement in the design department of the Renault Formula One team, about how her work placement has helped her studies and her career. Lilly has had the opportunity to work on the cars driven at circuits around the world, and she has even designed some of her own parts for the race cars to improve their performance.
What company is your placement based at and what is your role?
After looking for placements in the racing industry for a while, I came across an opportunity with Renault Sport Racing Limited as a Design Engineer Intern, part of the Formula 1 team. I was absolutely thrilled to try myself in the design area as this is what I imagined for myself when I was younger.
Why did you undertake a placement year?
In my case, it was an obvious choice the moment the opportunity for a placement year was presented. I’m not really the academic learning type of person, so reading books and making notes have never given me as much knowledge as ‘hands-on’ work and interaction with smart, interesting and experienced people. I look at it as a life experience, especially as this is the field I would like to build my life around. Such a highly competitive environment requires a certain type of dedication, to be willing to describe your work as your life.
Describe a typical day at work
A typical day on placement for me is how a typical day in work would be. At Renault Sport Racing they give the interns real work to do – I’m working ‘hands on’ with the RS17 car and I can’t express the feeling as I see it being driven around the circuits of the world; it is breath-taking. Just recently I released my first ever part for manufacturing and in a few days I held it in my hands, which was a very special feeling. So, get up in the morning, be at work for 8.30am and start with what was assigned to you. Learn the priorities of your tasks yourself, come in early or stay in late if necessary, just like any other designer.
What is your favourite part about working for the Renault Formula One team?
Every single day that I spend here is a highlight. The best thing in the morning is stepping in those doors, walking through the factory and seeing so many familiar people all smiling saying ‘Hi’; it feels very homely. I loved all the tasks I was given, and I feel trusted, encouraged and very motivated to be part of this industry. I am amazed by the people I am working with, every single day – how smart, creative and impressive they are. You also get to know the team who travels with the cars and honestly, all of it would be impossible without them, but you barely realize it when you just watch the race on your couch after a Sunday lunch and they appear on the TV screen to change tyres in two seconds. Sometimes you can have a casual chat with the Formula 1 drivers or see Nikki Lauda or Alain Prost walking around having a conversation with the team’s technical director – all of it is just incredible.
How do you think your placement year will increase your employability when you graduate?
It is very simple especially in the racing industry. If you have a graduate who is top of their class with the best grades, very smart, but never worked a day, and another with average scores and grades but has undertaken internships and placements in racing to gain work experience, a manager looking at the two CVs will hire the second candidate without much thought. This isn’t just about racing; I believe the same principle can be applied to many other fields as well. My placements are the best things that could have happened to me.
If you’re interested in following in Lilly’s footsteps, you can find out more about our engineering courses here