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Meet Shaheen Charlwood

As a child I grew up surrounded by maths and science, my father was a forensic scientist for NYPD, my mother was a teacher and my brother was always tinkering with wires and broken TV sets, so it really was the natural path for me to take.

I read Materials Engineering at degree level, followed by a Master’s in Surface Physics, although I always enjoyed arts and humanities as well, and still do. During my studies I did an internship with British Steel, where I was based at a steel plant in the 1980’s full of men! It was an uncomfortable environment, there were very few women and I experienced some patronising and sexist behaviour. While my internship didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted, it did make me reassess the route that I took.

I worked in secondary schools in London as a Maths teacher for over 20 years, before joining WMG in 2013. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to represent WMG at various outreach events including WISE and National Women in Engineering Day. It’s so important to show girls from a young age the different types of engineering careers possible, and to encourage them to keep their options open.

My advice to others is always this: There is so much more to engineering than meets the eye. Keep hold of maths and science, they can help to open some wonderful doors. Women are, quite rightly, valued for their caring roles, but don’t limit your choices to fit in with what society wants, you can do whatever you want to do.

I get to work with some wonderfully inspiring people from across the University and am also a governor at the WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Solihull. I really value that WMG is fast expanding which means there are so many opportunities open to staff. When I get a spare moment I sometimes sit at the back of lectures listening to the most amazing academics share their knowledge. Next year I’m starting a PhD alongside my day job, being able to learn new things at work is such a privilege.

It is a beautiful campus here too, a really lovely environment. As I walk from the car park each morning I often take a moment to soak it all up, I feel really lucky to work amongst such picturesque surroundings.