I never got the point of writing long essays. You don't have to write them if you study Maths and Science subjects at A Levels which I think was one of the reasons I chose to do Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Electronics and Computing for mine. I didn't know after my GCSEs that I was going to end up at Cambridge University studying engineering - all I did know was that I liked school subjects that were more analytical. I preferred problem solving and for things to have more of a right or wrong answer. That is pretty much the opposite of essay writing.
I always knew that paying tuition and accommodation fees at university was going to be tough which is why the IET Diamond Jubilee scholarship was so helpful. I entered the engineering and technology scholarship programme in 2013 as I found out that the IET would then put up a bursary fund of £1,000 per year during my studies. It's been proving hugely helpful as it means I don't have to worry about money so much, and of course, it looks great on my CV! I didn't know anyone who applied for the IET Diamond Jubilee scholarship until I got to University. I'd recommend anyone who passes the criteria of three As at A Level to enter. I was elated to win one of the scholarships. It also meant I learnt more about the support the IET offers to students and I now have student membership. I find their online library especially useful.
One of the things you do have to get used to is that being a girl studying engineering means you are in the minority. In my second A Level year for Electronics and Computing I was the only girl in my classes and at Cambridge there are 300 students on my engineering degree - and I think only around 20 per cent of us are girls. I get asked a lot whether it's because boys are more suited to the profession but I don't think it's that at all. I think it's got more to do with cultural and societal attitudes and perceptions. I know that at my school being really good at maths was considered un-cool and more girls were worried about that. Pictures of engineers are usually men holding tools or wearing hard-hats. That's not really reflective of everything you can do with engineering. I know that everyone is trying to get more girls to think about engineering but they have to make it more relevant, fun and cool. And teachers need to be more encouraging too, I know of one who told my friend that maths GCSE would be too hard for her to gain above a C grade and girls don't tend to need it, which is not encouraging at all! What I'm learning about now just feels too interesting not to do and with the right encouragement and change in attitude I think so many other girls would feel the same.
For example, on my course, we built a radio and next year we will be designing a robot. We also have an opportunity to join the Cambridge University Eco-Racing team where we enter a car into the World Solar Challenge which is taking place next year in Australia. It may be a university project for us to hone our skills but the far-reaching implications of having solar cars - well, how cool would that be?
I would wholeheartedly recommend studying a degree in engineering to any person regardless of gender. It isn't easy though. It takes hard work, determination and enthusiasm, but if you love science or maths I don't know why anyone would want to do anything else.
I'll be finishing my degree in 2017 and as of yet, I am not 100% sure about what I'll do when I finish at Cambridge. My course is a general engineering one and so we study everything from thermodynamics and electronics to medical engineering and bio-engineering. I will specialise further next year but am still trying to work out what area would be the best fit. From the stories you hear about fellow alumni and see reported, the job market is buoyant and always on the lookout for good engineers. I would love to end up at somewhere like Google, maybe working on their self-driving cars, or I can see myself at a consultancy too. I don't know yet because I can see myself suited to many different careers involving engineering. And not just because it doesn't involve writing essays.