This Women in Engineering Day, we are shining the spotlight on some of the fantastic women in the industry, asking them about their careers to date, hopes for the future and how IGEM has supported them so far. Sarah Parker has recently obtained her IGEM EngTech membership status and currently works as a GIRS Specialist at National Grid Metering.
Prior to leaving school, Sarah says that she didn’t really have any aspirations for what she wanted to do in life: ‘for some reason, going to university wasn’t something that was on my radar. I knew that I enjoyed working with computers and organizing people and processes and had thoroughly enjoyed my work experience within a packaging company as an Office Junior, so I enrolled into the local college and completed an NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration whilst working part time in a local café’.
She then was given the opportunity to work for a major workwear company as a Customer Service Advisor and, alongside the Contract Managers, managed a portfolio of companies who had contracts with the company in terms of garment ordering, renewals and general queries. When that opportunity came to an end, she did jobs such as temping for the local authority’s planning department and as a Customer Service Advisor at an LPG company but, as she was living in rented accommodation, she knew she needed something with more stability for the future.
‘I came across an advert at the local job centre one day, which was purely advertised as Network Records Assistant, which intrigued me, so I submitted an application and this is when I was informed that this position was at National Grid Gas Distribution (c/o Wilcock Consulting), a company that was literally on my doorstep which I had never really noticed or considered before’.
In 2005, Sarah joined the industry as part of the Way Ahead, ‘knowing zilch about the gas industry’. She became part of the Third-Party Quotations Team, issuing quotations to the UIP/iGT market, which back then was very minimal in terms of industry competition, and earned two customer service star awards during her time there and was also privileged to show Sir John Parker, Chairman of National Grid plc at that time, the role of her team.
She remained with National Grid/Cadent over a 15 year period, undertaking various roles such as design validations, model maintenance, network analysis, non-standard connections and then onto the complex connections team looking after SCJ (Sufficiently Complex Jobs), compass analysis and infill requests – a huge variety which Sarah says was very lucky to be involved with.
‘There were many great moments over my career within National Grid/Cadent and I was continually led by a strong management team, who believed in developing the future generation’, she says. This is where she was able to obtain her GIRS Design accreditation in 2009.
Over the years, however, Sarah realized that she was drawn to the technical elements of projects more so than becoming a team leader or manager, so whenever the opportunity arose, I would put my hand up for any development opportunities and, with the industry evolving once again, she made the decision to leave Cadent to explore other opportunities in 2019.
Joining a UIP provider as a Senior Technical Coordinator managing gas, water, and electricity projects, from project initiation through to completion gave her a huge insight of being on the other side of the fence, so to speak, and she developed more experience with the operational side of projects than previously. ‘This role was extremely interesting and fulfilling and, once again, unexpectedly, another opportunity arose, which I took the difficult decision to pursue’, she says.
‘I joined National Grid in November 2020 and I am delighted to now part of the Siteworks Team within National Grid Metering as a GIRS Design Specialist. I engage with both end customers and gas suppliers in terms of designing gas infrastructure for all types of industrial and commercial sites throughout Great Britain. I respond to the needs of small and large organisations alike, including complex industrial sites, and work across all pressure tiers along with our GIRS Project Managers’.
‘I decided I wanted to be officially recognised for all of my hard work, and to become officially accredited in some way. I wanted to show case my abilities and prove that all my determination and perseverance had been worth it’, she says, ‘I spoke to several people throughout the industry and the IGEM accreditation route was recommended. I immediately made enquiries and, with the GIRS Design accreditation I had already obtained, I would be recognised as an Engineering Technician’.
‘From my personal experience, I didn’t know of any other woman within the industry that had achieved this, so once again, my ambition kicked in. I had incredible support from people throughout the industry and finally, this year, I achieved this accreditation’.
In terms of the future of her career, Sarah says she doesn’t have a strict three-to-five-year career plan, which she says may seem odd to some people, but she has learnt that this is okay. ‘A very wise dear friend once said to me that you never know what is around the corner and, to this day, I thoroughly believe in cherishing yesterday, living for today and dreaming of tomorrow’, she says. ‘This has been a strong message that I have kept with me and, whenever something has seemed unachievable or too difficult, I have pushed myself to not be the person who is left behind and make my own future bright’.
Of course, there have been times that Sarah’s doubted herself but ‘we are extremely fortunate within the industry to have incredibly talented and approachable individuals, and I try and learn from these people to encourage my own development’, she says.
‘My advice would be, if you don’t know something, ASK! I never thought that I would be part of the engineering future. I highly encourage anyone to give yourself a chance and become involved’.
To find out more about becoming an IGEM EngTech member and to apply, click here.