Coming out of the bubble that is education and into the real world can be a daunting thing.
What on earth do you do next?
When that was me a few years ago so many questions went through my head…
Do I find a job? Should I do a BTEC at college? Am I clever enough to study A-Levels?
It is a minefield if you ask me, but what always stuck out for me was engineering. I enjoyed maths and fixing my bikes; both things that could help me follow an engineering career path. I was always fascinated in how things work, which kind of helps too!
Now engineering isn’t for everyone, but I think the only reason it took me time to take the plunge and give it a shot was not knowing much about working in the industry when I was leaving school.
Enter my series of posts finding out about the women who are either working, or studying the STEM industries (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mechanics).
First in the series is Georgia Shiels, who at 21 years old is studying Automotive Engineering at Bolton University. When Georgia isn’t studying she spends her time rallying.
So, take people back to the beginning. When did your interest in engineering start? Was it at a young age or later on? Do you think it matters if people grow to be interested later on?
To be totally honest… I don’t think I ever had an interest in engineering. My dad is a systems engineer but I never understood what that was. I always dreamed of being a teacher, then a pilot and finally a lawyer. My career ambition changed daily, as you can tell!
However, I was a total adrenaline junkie and loved anything that went fast; cars, bikes and aircraft. I learned to ride a bike without stabilisers at 3 years old and to drive a car at 15, so I suppose an aspect of engineering was always in my interests.
Engineering makes the world go round. Almost everything we see has been designed, built, and used through engineering processes. This is what makes engineering so interesting and so freeing. You don’t have to be interested in cars to be an engineer, you just have to have an interest in how things work, problem-solving and development.
“You just have to have an interest in how things work, problem-solving and development.”
I vowed that I would never attend university. A-levels put me off education for life! That was until I stumbled across Bolton University’s Automotive Performance Engineering degree and their course focusing on hands-on experience in motorsport! Despite still not knowing what engineering was; it was the best of both worlds for me, cars and engineering.
I absolutely love university and more importantly, I love the engineering degree. It is so diverse; applying maths, physics, project management and more to real-life “things”. The amazing thing is that you don’t have to be an engineer after graduation… the world is your oyster.
What interests you about it? Is it due to the driving side of things, or is there more that interests you about it? When did it occur to you that you could turn your interest into a career?
I passed my driving test at 17 and entered into the world of senior rallying. Forest rallying enhanced my passion for motorsport. I fell in love with rallying and this is when I decided I wanted to be the first ever female World Rally Champion. What better way to improve my chances than with an engineering degree from an up-and-coming university?!
All the pieces of the puzzle came together when I turned twenty. Following two gap years, during which so decided university was the right place for me, I now want to be there everyday. At 18, I don’t think I would have approached university in the same way. Everybody’s path in life is different.
“Everybody’s path in life is different.”
There’s plenty of ways to go into engineering now, such as apprenticeships and universities. What made you choose the university path?
I chose the university path for engineering as it offered me the time off I would need to go rallying. Apprenticeships are amazing and offer so much hands-on experience, but they couldn’t offer me the time to go rallying I needed.
You’re studying at Bolton University. What’s it like to study there?
Studying at Bolton University is so much fun! The lecturers know their stuff and their individual expertise combines to create a huge wealth of knowledge. We have recently set up a motorsport society to bring everyone together through their love of motorsport. It’s a really exciting time and I can’t wait for the new engineering building to be open in September! It looks beautiful!
You’ve obviously got to strike a balance between studying and your rallying. How does a typical week pan out for you? Is the course more theory based or is a lot of time spent in the workshop?
It can be difficult. I won’t lie. I don’t watch TV, I don’t go out drinking very often and I use my time wisely. Gosh I make my life sound so boring! Ha! However, I get to go rallying. I have so much fun and still socialise. I spend time with family and friends and follow my dreams.
To strike a balance, you have to make sacrifices and be organised! Organisation is key! I’m very fortunate that my motorsport career adds value to my engineering degree and fits in with all the hands-on work experience we get at Bolton Uni.
“To strike a balance, you have to make sacrifices and be organised!”
What could you potentially do when you complete your degree? Is there a particular job role you’re aiming for?
I wanted to do an engineering degree to be a valuable asset to any motorsport team or manufacturer. It is such a competitive world that every little bit of knowledge and experience helps. I think it’s so important to be able to work with your engineers in a motorsport team and understand how your car works.
There’s still an essence of engineering being a male-dominated industry. What’s the ratio like of male to female students on your course? How do you find being in the industry?
There are very few girls on my engineering course, which Bolton University and I are actively taking steps to change. We have set up a motorsport society with girls on the board and I am a STEM ambassador to inspire young girls to get involved in engineering and/or motorsport. It’s so much fun and certainly won’t be a male-dominated environment one day!
“I am a STEM ambassador to inspire young girls to get involved in engineering.”
Dare to be Different are trying to help more females get involved in Motorsport, whether they’re driving or not. Do you find your involvement with them is helping you progress?
Inspiring more girls to get involved in motorsport starts from a very young age, usually primary school, and therefore it’s important to show these young impressionable girls that they can get involved and it can be a career path. A common problem I have seen is parents of teenage girls saying “I would never let my daughter drive rally cars.” And this is an issue. We need to work together to defy the stereotype of a male driver as this just isn’t the case anymore. Both girls and boys drive cars and both are involved in motorsport.
Want to be kept up to date with Georgia Shiels and her 2017 endeavours? Head to her website or social media profiles here:
Facebook: Georgia Shiels Rallying
All photos taken from Georgia’s website & Facebook page.