[Interview - Part 1] - Female Engineers, Transforming the Future – Agnes Nagy

Posted 3/12/2019 by Benet Hanley

Again this year, in our dedication to supporting women in STEM we partnered with the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) to send seven female students to attend the WES Student Conference 2019, up from three last year. We recently caught up with some of the students to find out their thoughts on various issues ranging from the WES Student Conference itself, gender diversity in the electronics industry to what excites them about the UK tech industry in general.

First up in this mini-series, we are chatting with Agnes Nagy, Electronic Engineering student at the University of Nottingham.

So could you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you study, please?
My name is Agnes. I'm in my final year, studying electronic engineering at the University of Nottingham. I've been good at maths and physics, and I knew I wanted to be an engineer. Electronics just stood out to me from all other engineering disciplines and having completed three years at university I'm just even more confident that this is for me. 

You mentioned that being good at physics and maths, kind of pointed you in that direction. Was there anyone or anything that inspired you to go into electronics?
Yes, most people consider electronics as just a magic black box, they accept it works, and they expect it to work and I could never do that. I wanted to know why they work and how they worked, and I just wanted to do my own project. I was fortunate enough to have a brilliant physics teacher who encouraged me to go into electronics. 

Now that's something that's a consistent theme that I hear from all sorts of people that there's usually a physics teacher or a maths teacher somewhere in their background that inspired them to get into this subject at university. So do you know where you'd like your career to go? Do you have a plan?
I do. After finishing my course, I would definitely like to break from academia and go into industry. Possibly as part of an R&D team. I've had internships every summer since I started university so this contributed to the decision as well. I took the experience I gained, and I'm just looking at companies to apply to, at the moment. 

You went to the WES Student Conference this year, and the theme was “Transform the future”. Could you tell me a bit more about your experience at the conference?
All the talks were centered around the theme but they were all unique and fascinating. There were talks about risks and potential solutions on a global scale, which included the problems of the modern world, such as the fires in a warehouse as well as nature (climate change emergency). The most recent innovations in engineering were also mentioned – vehicle automation, healthcare engineering, and advances in renewable, nuclear energy. The main takeaway, however, was that we are the future, and there are many ways that each of us can individually transform the future.

Did you have a favorite guest speaker from the conference?
Yes, I did. It was Dr. Helen Meese, she was a part of the “Future of Engineering panel talk”, and her topic was the present and the future of healthcare engineering. That really resonated with me. There's a lot of potential in this field, and there is a lot that we can do.

So, in what way do you feel you're going to transform the future then?
Personally, I'm looking to go into medical electronics, which has huge potential right now. So hopefully, with the help of that, I will be able to help people directly.

Why do you think events like the WES Conference are important for encouraging women into STEM careers?
We need role models and meeting these brilliant people, listening to their stories, their hardships, and how they overcame these problems is just so inspiring and made me more confident in my career choice. You know there are days when I walk into a lecture hall and don't see another female student. Thinking back to the conference and the people that I met is what stops me from thinking that I don't belong there; because, of course, I belong. Now I can see how far I can go in just a few years.

What excites you about the UK tech industry?
It has to be the sheer amount of opportunities and the wide range of topics. I always knew that technology had plenty in it but seeing this in person is an entirely different experience. You no longer have to just do your job in the day and spend time in your hobbies in the evenings or weekends. If there's anything that you're passionate about, there's a big chance there’s an engineering position related to it. There's also a lot of research going on in highly ranked facilities across the country that just opens even more doors for young engineers like myself and places the future in our hands.

You've had some good experience with studying, conferences and internships, as well. So was there anything that came out that surprised you?
Yes, it has to be the number of different areas within electronics it’s just unbelievable. I was aware of some big areas like embedded systems or digital signal processing but having attended several events and taking internships, I see how much there is to the industry. There's no hard boundary between different disciplines, either. If you have someone working in medical electronics, for example, using semiconductors, they likely need some biology, chemistry knowledge as well as embedded systems programming, analog, and digital electronics.

So you sound like you've really found it a very positive experience and you sound as if you're a little bit of a trailblazer in your own right. What advice would you give to the industry to help increase the number of women and girls?
Most importantly, I’d say companies should ensure that women feel comfortable applying to them, and they should be assessed fairly as well. It shouldn't just be about filling that quota of female engineers.

Okay, so you feel the companies need to maybe pause and think a little bit about the environment that they create, and the way they present themselves to a female audience?
Definitely, that's because even if we have these outreach activities, many girls and women don't go into STEM because they just don't see it as an option. So this needs to be supported with talks, workshops, campaigns online, and things like that.

Talking about diversity, I can certainly hear a non-natural UK accent from you. I can probably guess from your name, but where do you originate from?
I’m from Hungary.

How long have you been over in the UK?
For three years. Actually, I moved here to study at university. That's how I came, but I do plan to stay indefinitely.

That’s also another brave thing to do. To move to a different country speaking a second language, integrating and experiencing new things. Tell me a bit about how you found that. How were you welcomed, what did you feel you had to overcome, and what were the challenges for you?
It really wasn’t hard when I came to university. Because at the university, it's just such a group of different people from all over the world and even the people who are from the UK are usually not from around that area. So you're not treated any differently than anyone else, which I think was great.

Were there any other challenges?
There were plenty. But, I think all of those challenges just made me stronger and just a better problem-solver. At the time I was unhappy about them, but I’m quite glad at this point that they happened.

You've been part of the UKESF scholarship program. What has that meant for you?
Well, opportunities, relationships, and learning. Receiving the UKESF scholarship opened the world for me. I got to meet some truly amazing people. I made friends, as well as connections with professionals in the field. I could attend several events throughout the year, such as the Scholar workshop week, different outreach events, and of course, the WES Student conference. Most importantly, I spent the summer working at a small company 170 miles from home which was an amazing experience and I believe beneficial for both sides. Without UKESF, I would have never heard of them let alone considered applying. Those few months had a huge effect on my self-confidence, professional development, and even the direction I want my career to go to.

Is there anything else that comes to mind that you think you'd like to share with us about your experiences today?
Yes, about the WES Student conference. I just wanted to add that I find it to be very inspiring and useful. Meeting women from every engineering discipline and listening to such a wide range of talks, it reminded me that all great things come from a diverse multi-disciplinary group working together. We have to be open-minded and listen to the ideas of people who are different from us to move forward. So that was something I learned there.

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. We find technical leaders for the emerging and enabling technology industries. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, software and IoT in Scotland and the UK. Check out our blog page for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on + 44 131 510 8150


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