Young Women In Tech: Victoria Palmer, Dyson Engineer
Do you ever wonder who is behind all the gadgets you use at home?
When you think Dyson, it's easy to assume it's all James' own handywork. But behind every Dyson product is a team of engineers, including Victoria Palmer, a young engineer new to the company.
While for many of us, our work is confined to a single office, Palmer's work can be seen in most department stores across the country. She was key in developing one of the features that makes Dyson vacuums much easier to use on a range of surfaces.
She is a born engineer, who loves to find out how to make things function better. As a kid, Palmer always wanted to know how things worked, she played with cistern set-ups her plumber father built as his trade. She also constructed elaborate activity courses for her pet gerbils.
A work placement at university sealed her (newly formed) career. "I did a work placement at a food processing company and did system engineering. But I could see the R&D people in another room and I thought 'that's what I want to be doing'. So I went back to university to do my projects and modules around product design."
"I love knowing how things work, and I love taking things apart. When I look at something, I want to know why things fit together, what is the mechanism that makes it function," says Palmer.
The R&D function at Dyson finds out the fundamentals of technology, what it's limits are and what products it could be applied to, according to Palmer.
The most exciting thing about R&D is learning and discovering new things. "If you've got a new technology that you're trying to develop, finding out what makes it work, and why it works, is what I find exciting," she adds.
There were just two female engineers out of sixty on her final masters course in mechanical engineering at Loughborough. At Dyson there are still more men than women, though many more women have started in those roles since Palmer started. Dyson does not have a specific programme to recruit more women over other engineers however.
"I think more women are realising engineering is a career for girls. It wasn't when I was younger. People often think I tinker with cars, but through things like the Dyson award, women realise that designing, maths and physics are a career for them," she says.
Palmer says the best thing about working with Dyson is constantly innovating new ideas and becoming more efficient.
"Young girls need to be more aware of the opportunities out there for them. I think women will be naturally interested in engineering, but they just need to know what they can do. People don't necessarily know what being a modern engineers is, which we try to fix with the Dyson foundation going out to schools and taking them projects to work on," Palmer says.
The Women in Engineering Society could also do more for young people, she says.
Although she is only in her first full-time tech job, Palmer herself goes out to schools to present to young people, and not so gently coerce them into her industry.