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Thales graduate "engineering" their way to success

Picture this: you’re an Engineering Graduate, on secondment to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) – the first of its kind – whilst also spending time at Space Command – sound impressive? Well, that is the exceptional career path of Eilidh Dougherty.

At Thales, we enable our employees to reach their full potential, providing growth and development opportunities, alongside leading experts. 

Recently, Eilidh had the opportunity to represent NPCC at Security and Policing, to highlight the benefits of counter-drone technologies and the vital role we play in protecting the nation’s security. 

We sat down with Eilidh to get an insight in to her world, her passion for engineering, her current secondment to the NPCC, a glimpse in to her time at Security and Policing and her aspirations for the future.

Can you share your journey to becoming an Engineering Graduate at Thales? 

At school, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But, with a fascination for all things tech and a strong interest in math and physics, it made sense to pursue a career in engineering. I studied a Master's in Mechanical Engineering with Aeronautics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and that’s where I first found out about Thales. It has a big presence in Glasgow and I had the opportunity to meet with company representatives and graduates at a gala event. I felt like there would be lots of possibilities with a career at Thales – they are involved in everything!

Tell us about your current graduate placement

I’m seconded to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), an organisation which helps set the direction for policing in the UK. I work closely with law enforcement teams to help shape future technology. It’s about understanding the practical needs and challenges police officers face, particularly in technology adoption on the frontline.

My role is with the counter drone team, which works with 43 regional forces across the country to help teams prepare for drone attacks. I have two main responsibilities, one is to support the testing of equipment and the other is to develop a technical strategy to help develop products for the next 10-15 years, when current equipment becomes obsolete. 

Working for the NPCC, you get a good insight to what’s really going on. By meeting actual police men and women you find out what they are dealing with. For example, working with prison staff to get intelligence on drone incidents or understanding what it’s like to use touchscreens in freezing cold conditions. 

It works for both sides, the NPCC wants to speak to industry more about what’s working so products are designed with the end user in mind and at the same time, the insider knowledge means that industry doesn’t have to invest in R&D without knowing if it’s any good.

It’s the first time anyone from industry has been seconded to the NPCC and it’s a really exciting placement as a graduate because you see first-hand how the technology we develop at Thales is making a real difference. 

How did you find your first time at Security and Policing?

I had a great time. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet different companies to better understand their technology and the role they play in the wider defence picture. There were lots of interesting presentations and panels, which really gave me a broader insight in digital security and the applications of AI. The highlight of the event was the immersive exhibit where participants were able to work their way through a multi-layered terrorist incident and ensure the safety of the public.

Events like these help to build confidence to speak to a range of different experts and build your professional network as you all have a common goal.

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in engineering?

At Thales, every apprentice and graduate in the UK are allocated 80 hours of volunteering, so I have used that time to work with students in Glasgow, and inspire the next generation to think about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Much of my advice would be the same for anyone looking to get into engineering, regardless of gender.

There’s a lot of good STEM networks out there that are open to everyone so it’s a great place to start to get insight and meet people from different companies to find out what they really do. 

Don’t be scared to go for it! There will always be challenges, but find ways to create resilience in yourself. One way to do this is through a mentoring programme, which I’ve found really valuable. 

Finally, believe in yourself. Remember that your opportunity is down to the qualities you bring, not your gender. 

Looking towards the future, what are your ambitions working at Thales?

I’ve been really fortunate to experience a variety of different placements as a graduate at Thales, from Augmented Reality, to Procurement, Space Command and now the drone world! I’ve learnt to embrace every opportunity and will continue to do so throughout my career. 

Looking to the future, I’m interested in leadership but will always be an engineer at heart and wouldn’t want to lose that technical perspective and intuition. That’s where Thales comes in as the technology is brilliant!