What it’s like to be a female engineer: Sam’s story after 28 years in the job


Leeds resident, Sam Longley recently reached her twenty eighth year of service with British Gas. Completing her apprenticeship in 1992, Sam found a career for life.


“After leaving school I did a lot of bar work, but what I really wanted was to do something practical, where I could meet people and learn a skill. After spending some time looking around I discovered the British Gas apprenticeship scheme.


“My parents were really supportive of my decision to get into engineering. My dad was an engineer for many years and was very happy when I told him I would be going down the same route as he did.”


Since starting her career, Sam has seen perceptions of women in engineering change.


“I would say that I have never experienced any negativity from customers when I turn up for a job. They are usually more surprised than anything. Since I started working my patch a lot more women have joined British Gas and I’ve definitely seen attitudes change for the better.


“Many customers - especially elderly ones, like having a female engineer. We definitely bring something different to the job. People often feel more assured by a female presence in their home.


Sam’s favourite parts of the job include meeting customers and helping them get the most out of our  products.


“Being your own boss, being out and about and meeting people have to be the best bits. A lot of customers are really interested in Hive products, when I install them. One lady, who lived by herself, told me that her Hive Active Light Bulbs make her feel more secure. I think elderly customers are getting more clued-up.”


“I would encourage any females out there considering a career in a STEM field to just go for it.”


During her training, Sam received expert guidance and support from her mentors.


“I really enjoyed taking what I learned in theory sessions and using my new knowledge when I was out shadowing a qualified engineer. It meant you instantly saw your hard work in the class room pay off.”


“I think young people coming out of education should consider apprenticeships. You gain so many life skills, and you get paid as you learn, which these days can be a really attractive alternative to the debt you can build up at university.”


Talking about whether her parents or teachers encouraged a career in engineering, Sam said: Teachers didn’t. They were more interested in women’s professions. Back in the day we did a lot of tailoring, or office based work. Dad was keen.”


“Don’t’ be put off by thinking it’s male-orientated. There are a lot of women doing it and it’s easy to fit in with a mixed team of males and females. If you work well in a team environment, don’t be afraid to give it a go.”

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