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International Women in Engineering Day – Innovators and Inventors

The 23rd June is International Women in Engineering Day, celebrating the amazing women around the world who contribute their skills and expertise to the engineering sector. According to Women’s Engineering Society (WES), in 2021 16.5% of women were engineers. Thales in the UK believe that it’s important to encourage more girls and women in to STEM subjects, to get them excited about technical professions across the technology industry.

We had the privilege to hear from three of our talented women at Thales in the UK about their career, innovative projects they’ve worked on and their advice for the next generation of women in STEM.

Nasyitah Ghazalli

I’m Nasyitah Ghazalli and I’m a Research Engineer at Thales in the UK. I received a Bachelor’s Degree from International Islamic University, Malaysia in Communication Engineering, a Master’s Degree from the University of Portsmouth in Communication System Engineering and a Ph.D. from Cranfield University in Radar Systems.

After I finished my Bachelor’s degree, I immediately went to work as a Network Engineer in a telecommunication firm. This business provided installation, consultation and supporting services for telecommunication providers. I also have experience working in a global provider of information and communications technology infrastructure as a Service Software Engineer. I was responsible for the technical side of transitioning a project from the engineering to operation phases and was involved in the maintenance and operations phases. Before I joined Thales, I worked in a leading semiconductor manufacturer that provides solutions to automotive, industrial, mobile, 5G and Enterprise OEMs as a Product Engineer.

One recent innovative project that I have been involved with is Train Worker Protection with Thales GTS. The concept is a train on board solution utilising the Sensor Fusion Algorithm to detect the train’s location and speed. I have been involved in adding and implementing the solution in Rail Track Tool software, which is the Graphic User Interface for the systems. I have also been involved with setting up the hardware platform, which runs the Sensor Fusion Algorithm on the concept train.

Having a role that involves innovation helps me solve critical problems and provides creative understanding that enables me to look at things from a different perspective. It also improves my productivity, involvement and enjoyment in the workplace on a day-to-day basis.

It’s important that women are recognised as innovators and inventors to show that we can adapt to challenges and changes. It fosters career growth by making continuous improvements and helps to produce next generation products and solutions by identifying new and novel techniques and technologies.

Grace Hopper, known for her role in developing Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) and inventing the first compiler, inspires me. She also found the real ‘bug’ in their computer and she had to literally ‘de-bug’ the machine!

My advice to a young girl aspiring to have a career in STEM is to go for it! Be bold, take the risks and acknowledge imperfections. It can be stressful to keep maintaining high grades to further your passion in STEM, but remember there are also different pathways to enter STEM fields, such as apprenticeships and training. Believe in yourself, don’t let negativity wear you down and never give up.

Gaelle Rabarison

My name is Gaelle Rabarison and I’m originally from Madagascar. I came to the UK in 2010 to complete a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Strathclyde. I currently work as a Senior Research Engineer at Thales Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) in the UK.

I joined Thales in 2014, and I have taken part in a wide variety of projects involving various branches of mathematics and programming. Some of the innovative projects I have worked on include, applying machine learning techniques for classifying pedestrian navigation from Inertial Measurement Unit data, using geometry techniques for supporting the semi-automatic extraction of tracks from aerial imagery, and investigating state-of-the-art filtering techniques to mitigate wind farm interference in radar target tracking.

I think one of the best things about having a role that involves innovation is the flexibility to apply my mathematics background to address real-world  challenges. I also enjoy expanding my knowledge about recent scientific developments into areas that are relevant to the business. Another aspect of working in innovation is that I get to meet and work with bright people and learn from them. 

More importantly, I think the best thing about my work is that I actually enjoy what I do.

My perception is that innovators and inventors, especially within the STEM industry, are activities, which are more attributed to men. I think it’s important for the younger generation to see that a lot of women choose to have innovative work and thrive in their area of expertise.

I personally did not have a female innovator that inspired me to choose a career in innovation. My career choice was guided by my love for mathematics and knowing that I wanted to apply my mathematics knowledge to real-world applications. In retrospect, having a female role model could have helped me choose my career path a bit sooner, and it did take me some time to realize that I could do mathematics for a living.

To any young girl aspiring to have a career in STEM, believe in yourself. If you enjoy STEM activities, there is a career path for it, where you can get to do things that are challenging and interesting. Join the community of STEM women who are working hard to break the mould.

Aaminah Wali

I’m Aaminah Wali and I’m a Graduate Engineer at Thales in the UK. During the last 3 years, I've been on a number of placements around Thales as part of the Graduate Programme and I've had some fantastic opportunities to work on innovative projects. I have supported a research team with Multi-agent Reinforcement Learning Algorithm Design for defence-based applications and I have supported systems modelling activities for the development of Satellite Communication Systems. Currently, I am working on a number of improvement schemes to introduce new techniques, processes and tools to Engineering.

The best thing about my role is that I’m really at the forefront of what is such an exciting time in the industry. We're currently rolling out a number of innovative technologies (with more on the roadmap) that are already improving the way we do Engineering. This will enable us to deliver better to our customers and introduce more innovation to our products.

It’s the diversity of our Engineering workforce that has been one of the biggest drivers for innovation. A diverse workforce introduces new skillsets, approaches and ways of working that allow 'out of the box' ideas to be heard. Its important women are recognised for their role in driving innovation to encourage further diversity in Engineering.

Katherine Johnson and her pivotal role during her career in NASA truly inspired me to pursue a career in Engineering. She broke through many barriers, during a time where minority women had limited access to education and STEM careers, and she led the way for the generations that followed her.

My advice to a young girl looking to pursue a career in STEM is that you are the driver of your own career. It's up to you to find your path, decide what you’re interested in. There are no limits to what you can do or where you can go in STEM - no matter what some people may say. If you're lost or need some guidance, don't be afraid to seek help from those around you to get there.