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Meet our members - Flt Lt Jess Mac Sweeney IEng MIMechE

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Flt Lt Jess Mac Sweeney IEng MIMechE
Flt Lt Jess Mac Sweeney IEng MIMechE

Flt Lt Jess Mac Sweeney IEng MIMechE is a Junior Engineer Officer on 6 Sqn Eurofighter Typhoon. We spoke to Jess about her passion for engineering, the benefits of being an IMechE member and her career achievements and aspirations for the future.

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
I grew up near an airport and my eyes were glued skywards a lot of the time, whether it was watching aircraft flying over my house or satellites before bed. As soon as I learned that it was aerospace engineers who designed and worked with all of these things, my mind was made up. I couldn't think of a cooler job to do.

What advice would you give to aspiring female engineers?
If there are specific roles or opportunities that you want, don't be shy in making it known you are interested and highlighting why you would be suitable. You have to be bold and a little loud sometimes.
Being 'pushy' about your goals can feel uncomfortable, but ultimately no one else is going to do that pushing on your behalf. Try not to worry about how your sense of ambition is being taken by others; having drive is a good thing!

Tell us about your experience as an Engineer within the RAF, would you recommend this path to the next generation of Engineers?
I've had a lot of exciting opportunities: working with fast jets, missiles, new technologies, working around the world, having another Master's degree fully paid for by the MOD. You also get management experience far quicker in the military than in industry. The hours are long and there isn't much stability when it comes to your personal life, but the downsides are far outweighed when you look at the bigger picture. I would absolutely recommend it to the next generation.

Tell us about your current role and your journey to getting this job role?
I am a Junior Engineer Officer (JEngO) on 6 Sqn Eurofighter Typhoon, which is exactly the job I aspired to have when I joined the RAF. I'm very lucky to have this role, as competition for Engineer Officer jobs on front-line squadrons is competitive. It's a very busy and exciting place to be, and the novelty of working with jets never wears off.

Why did you want to become an Incorporated Engineer with the Institution? 
Having professional recognition is a good way to measure your career progress in a way which makes sense across the whole industry, rather than just within your own organisation (e.g. rank, which isn't easily understood externally). Achieving IEng status is reassurance that my overall progress as an engineer is on track.

What support have you received from the institution so far?
It has been a great way to network with engineers within the military who are outside of my Chain of Command, and they have provided brilliant mentoring and career advice. Being a member of the IMechE has also helped introduce me to engineers outside the MOD, which gives me a far better insight into the overall aerospace industry.

What has been your greatest/most interesting education/career achievement so far? 
I was invited to attend the European Space Agency astronaut selection aptitude testing in Hamburg last year. It was incredible to reach the final 6% of candidates, a real career highlight! The overall application and selection process was intense, but I also met some great people along the way who had fascinating backgrounds and were very passionate about STEM. The whole experience reminded me that the big, audacious goals we once set as children, don't have to be as unreachable as we tell ourselves.

What are your top member benefits?
It has been a privilege to promote professional registration and further education to the personnel that I manage. That is the greatest benefit in my opinion, to act as a form of mentor to others who want to develop as engineers.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I would like to be working as a Flight Test Engineer and to have completed my second MSc at Cranfield University, in Guided Weapons Systems (perhaps awaiting another ESA recruitment cycle).

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