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STEM case study - Lauren Cross

What you need to know

 
Lauren Cross - Test and Development Engineer, Hyster-Yale

Lauren Cross is a Test and Development Engineer with Hyster-Yale. She is passionate about STEM and dedicated to encouraging other young women in Northern Ireland to consider STEM careers.
Lauren Cross
Lauren grew up in Ardglass Co. Down and attended an all-girl grammar school. She is the middle child, has two brothers, and she is the only one of her family so far to have chosen a STEM career.

Technology has always been Lauren's favourite subject. She studied Technology, Physics and Maths for A level and also completed an AS Level in Politics. After leaving school she studied for a Masters degree in Product Design Engineering, in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queens University in Belfast. “The degree covered so many aspects of engineering from CAD, to Rapid Prototyping to Economics / Business Models to Legislation and Standards,” she said. “I don't think I could have chosen a better degree to set me up for my current job role”.

Looking back to her school days Lauren recalls that the number of pupils keeping Technology on as a subject at A Level declined, but many of her fellow pupils did chose to study Maths and Sciences at A Level. Many of them had ambitions to pursue careers in medicine, veterinary practices and accountancy. Lauren and her two closet friends chose STEM subject, but they each have different careers and jobs. One is a maths teacher in Edinburgh while the other is currently working for an animation company in Bristol.

Lauren is forthright about the challenges which face girls and young women studying STEM subjects. Although, as she attended an all-girl school, these weren't as apparent until she reached university. She says, “In the Product Design Engineering course girls were heavily outnumbered - there were only 4 females in my class of just over 20 students.” According to Lauren, and other female engineers she has met throughout her career, that pattern of just about 20% of students being female, is repeated throughout engineering courses.

When Lauren applied for a job at Hyster-Yale after graduating she wasn't sure if it was going to be the right choice for her. It helped when, as part of the interview process, the company offered a tour of their plant. “It was on the tour that I became so enthusiastic about the possibility of getting this job“, she says. The company and its manufacturing facility were outstanding. When I came out of the interview I was dying to get the job and thankfully I did!”

Lauren has been employed at Hyster-Yale since 2012 and has found opportunities and challenges. “I am so lucky to have a job that I love,” she says. “I have gained technical knowledge in hydraulic systems, electrical system, manufacturing processes, standards and legislation, testing procedures and development of new technologies. My experiences have helped me further my career within the company and I have also been lucky enough to travel with my work – I've been to Germany, London and USA.”

Lauren is currently a Test and Development Engineer, working closely with standards and legislation to ensure that products meet European legislation requirements. Some days she is office based, on other days she works outside, carrying out tests. “I complete testing to measure parameters such as noise, vibration, exhaust emissions and energy consumption, and communicate these back to the design engineers on new development projects and technologies with our product. It is a great mix of theoretical and practical engineering.”

As a STEM advocate Lauren is passionate about encouraging young girls and other women to consider a STEM career. She knows from her own experience how rewarding it can be. “There is always something new to learn and new challenges to face – I highly recommend it,” she says.  Lauren says she would love to see more females in leading roles in large companies. “We need more women in boardrooms making decisions and many STEM companies now offer a perfect opportunity for this to become a reality.“

Lauren has been lucky enough to secure a place on the Miss STEM Europe initiative. The programme is working with 14 pupils from two schools in Northern Ireland, 10 students from South West College, Dungannon and 6 females working in the STEM industry. The aim of the project is to shape future policies and initiatives to encourage more females into STEM Education and careers. It is a prestigious programme and one both Lauren and her employers are delighted she is involved in it.

Lauren’s advice to those considering a STEM career is  “Work hard and be curious! The best questions to ask usually start with “Show me how....?”

Lauren also has advice for female students going to study STEM subjects at university, “Do not let your male peers divert you into just being in charge of admin or the more mundane organisational tasks.  The greater variety of jobs you do, the stronger candidate you will be in the job market. Make sure you get practical experience; be brave; take the lead; and, most of all, decide what you want for your education and career and make sure you get it.”
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