Spotlight on... women in gas

Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on 23 June, IGEM Marketing Assistant Jodie Shepherd spoke to Lowri Beck’s Laura-Lee Oxley about her life in the gas industry and the role IGEM has played in her career development

Laura-Lee Oxley is a Field Services Audit Manager at smart metering firm Lowri Beck Services. Her career began over six years ago, at the age of 21, when she started working as an Admin Assistant at a small gas metering company. Since then, she has worked her way through the ranks, and says that she has “thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the journey”. 

The bulk of Laura’s career in the gas industry has been in an Operations/Team Manager capacity but, in her current role, it is her responsibility to structure, conduct, monitor, and report routine audits to ensure that Metering Operations achieves its targets for the company’s nationwide workforce of engineers. She also manages the remote technical support desk function to ensure engineers are safe and are following the company’s processes and procedures. 

“Being a member of IGEM has allowed me to be closer to industry information that I am able to share with my team as and when required. The role of Audit Manager is a brand-new challenge for me, and I have been fortunate enough to have a strong support network both in the workplace and out,” she said. 

As a big believer in continuing professional development, Laura enrolled on an evening gas course in September 2020 and says that she has a few reasons for doing this: “I wanted to gain a better understanding and develop my knowledge of the industry I work in. I must admit, I massively underestimated the vast amount of knowledge required to become a qualified gas engineer. It has certainly made me more sympathetic of the engineer’s job role now that I’ve realised just how much is involved. I was actually the first female to train as a gas engineer at the training centre I trained at.”

For Laura, there were a number of reasons for becoming an IGEM member. She said: “I wanted to increase the presence of women in engineering, and to help encourage more women into the industry. I always enjoy speaking with new people and expanding my network, and IGEM is a brilliant platform for this. I believe the best results are achieved through collaboration,” she said. 

“Being a member of IGEM has really opened my eyes into the wider industry, especially with the access to the Hydrogen Knowledge Centre,” she added. “I don’t think I have yet experienced the full benefits of being an IGEM member due to Covid-19, but that hasn’t stopped me from forming several connections with other IGEM members and expanding my network. I hope that being an IGEM member will not only help me with my career, but also allow me to help others with theirs.

“I would say there is a noticeable void between managerial IGEM members and the downstream engineering area. I hold close connections with this particular area, and I hope to work with IGEM to broaden the diversity of members by encouraging not only more women into engineering, but more downstream engineers into the world of IGEM.”

In terms of people who inspire her, Laura points to FIGEM members Steve Critchlow and Dave Tomkin, saying: “I love reading Steve's content on LinkedIn and his passion for the industry. Dave has been a brilliant mentor for me, helping with any questions I have regardless of the time of day. 

“I would also say a massive thank you to Dominic Dawes, who is the Gas Technical Manager at the same company I work for (he's also EngTech). He has helped me with my study to no end and has kept me motivated to see it through to the end,” she said.

Her advice for women wanting to get into the engineering industry? “Do it! Don’t get me wrong, I have overcome several challenges during my time in the gas industry, from misogynistic comments to being completely overlooked and ignored. What I will say is the support and encouragement I have received has hugely outweighed the negativity. I have worked with and spoken to some amazing men and women in engineering since starting my journey, many who became mentors to me. I’d like to think I could pass this on and do the same for other women hoping to explore a career in engineering.

“If engineering is something that you are interested in, my advice would be to get out there and spend some time in the field with other engineers first. The most important element of any career is to enjoy what you do and, whilst I appreciate being approached to create articles such as this one, I hope in years to come we won’t need to create targeted campaigns to attract women into engineering. We have a lot of work to do to normalise women in engineering, but I’m confident that together it can be achieved.”

In terms of what is next for Laura, she’s aiming to become a Mental Health First Aid Champion and obtain her IOSH Managing Safely qualification as a minimum this year. 

“Once I have qualified as a gas engineer, I will be looking to upgrade my IGEM membership to EngTech,” she said, adding that she would like to become more involved in both IGEM and campaigns to encourage women into engineering. 

To find out more about becoming an IGEM Member Manager member and to apply, click here.

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