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My Engineering Journey: 'It's the problem solving, creative thinking and teamwork I enjoy most'

Professional Engineering

'Becoming the organisation's youngest principal engineer was a huge achievement': Kerrine Bryan
'Becoming the organisation's youngest principal engineer was a huge achievement': Kerrine Bryan

Beginnings

I was born and raised in Birmingham. Being one of very few black children in school, my mother always told me that I would need to work twice as hard to get half the success of my friends. This thought has been with me throughout my entire life and has pushed me to always give a little bit extra at school and at work, and to be the best that I can be. I only really found out what engineering was when I was 17 while studying to become an accountant. I attended an engineering taster course and enjoyed it so much that I shelved any plans I had for becoming an accountant to pursue a degree in engineering. 

2001-05, University of Birmingham

I studied a four-year master’s degree in electronic and electrical engineering with language, and graduated with a first-class honours. Initially, I found this quite difficult, and I felt that I had quite a lot of catching up to do despite having completed a year in industry as well as a foundation year. However, once it was time to put the theory into practice within labs, robot races and team projects, I knew I had made the right choice. To this day, it’s the problem solving, creative thinking and teamwork that I enjoy most about engineering. 

2005-10, Electrical engineer, CB&I

My engineering career started 14 years ago at a large oil and gas contractor on a graduate scheme. This involved electrical power system design for multiple onshore and offshore projects around the world on various phases of design, from conception through to commissioning. As a result of accepting opportunities put forward to me (many of which were out of my comfort zone), I was engaged in a mixture of office and site-based work in the UK and abroad, as well as in technical and leadership roles. I also completed a postgraduate certificate in engineering management as well as an MBA. I built a strong foundation for the next phase of my career.

2011-17, Principal electrical engineer, CB&I

Becoming the organisation’s youngest principal engineer was a huge achievement. My role came with added responsibilities, including working with bigger clients, larger teams and significant budgets. I spent some time on secondment as a contract development manager, which involved market research, strategy and coordinating proposals for potential projects. This experience opened my eyes to the bigger picture of projects as a whole, as well as industry and market trends. In 2014, I was also shortlisted in Management Today’s “35 women under 35” feature, among other candidates in the country from a variety of industries, including mining, tunnelling and technology, who were recognised for their contribution to UK business.

2015-18, STEM ambassador

Parents, teachers and children aren’t aware of what engineering involves but it is often thought of as a manually difficult job for older white men. I understood why I came to the idea of engineering late, so I decided to volunteer doing talks about my job across the country to children as a STEM ambassador. Here, I got the idea to develop a range of children’s books that could tackle some of these inherent misconceptions. I saw it as a good way of communicating to children a positive message about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers that are suffering skills gaps and diversity issues. It’s important that children and parents understand that these jobs are available and accessible to them – no matter what gender they are or what background they come from – and that the opportunity is there for the taking if they apply themselves, work hard and want it enough. The world is their oyster. Working with my brother, Jason Bryan, we produced our first book – My Mummy is an Engineer – in 2015 with this objective in mind.

2018-present, Lead power systems engineer, WSP USA

After taking a career break to have my daughter, I started a new role in Manhattan, New York. I’m working on some exciting power-generation projects, including co-generation, energy-saving studies and renewable power.


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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