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Sylvia Konaklieva

I would say my route into engineering has been unconventional, as I fell into it by accident! I studied BA English and American Studies and MA Slavonic Studies at Sofia University, before embarking on an MEng Renewable Energy course at Exeter University. The course sounded really interesting, which is how I came to be studying engineering. I loved the course and haven't stopped since!

I want to make beautiful, useful, ecologically-friendly, desirable things. I like to discover a better way of doing something. For example in the field of energy storage, I would like to discover a better 'battery'. Something that is cheaper, non-toxic, environmentally friendly and much more energy dense than existing devices/materials. My aspirations are to push the boundaries of the yet unknown.

The achievement I'm most proud of from my engineering work is preparing the interface and programming the control of one stepper motor.

My experience of working in a male-dominated industry has been very positive. Being a lady I have always been treated especially well (maybe even better than my male colleagues)! You are surrounded by so many clever and amazing men and you’ll get even more attention for who you are and what you do often just because you happen to be female! Is this a disadvantage? I’d call it unfair advantage!

I didn't have a role model to encourage me into engineering, before I came to the UK to study I had always thought engineers were uncool and lacking a bit of je-ne-sais-quoi, a bit stiff! However, now I'm an engineer and finding the work really interesting, I will do my best to be a role model to others (and stay cool too!).

During my career I have been inspired by my maths lecturer at Exeter University (Ken O’Brien) who told us from day one “you are engineers”; Dr Tom Betts from Loughborough University, who is such an inspirational solar photovoltaic specialist; and my father who is not an engineer by education (he is an archaeologist), but is better than many thousands of those who hold the title - he is the ultimate natural born engineer.

Engineering is a great profession for people who want to build and create rather than destroy. Women are more creators than destroyers. My advice to anyone considering studying engineering is to be creative. You're studying a great degree that can give you the potential to become a maker! Don’t spend too much time in getting it perfect - try things! We engineers are enterprising experimentalists - remember the phrase 'for practical purposes' - otherwise nothing will ever leave the drawing board! Don’t take yourself too seriously, basically lose the pomp and all stupid stereotypes you may have been fed about engineering - we're not stuck-up socially incompetent big cheeses, we are people like everyone else. Don’t forget to have fun! If you are not loving what you are doing you must be doing something wrong - so drop the degree (or job) and go do something else.

Fact file

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Targovishte (Bulgaria)
Where do you live now? I now live in the UK, dividing my time between Blyth, Leamington Spa and London - I'm constantly travelling!
Where do you work? I work at the University of Warwick and at Narec, which recently merged with Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
What's your position within the company? Design and Development Engineer

Quick quirky question: Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself? At the age of 24, I managed to get a cherry stone stuck in my ear!

You can follow Syliva on Twitter: @SylviaKonakliev