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Dr Caitlin McCall: from Engineering to Senior Research Engineer

Social media handle(s): Linkedin


A few words about me:

A picture of Caitlin McCall, engineer, looking into the camera

I am a Chartered Engineer with the IMechE and have over 8 years' experience in Manufacturing Engineering.


I currently work at The MTC as a Senior Research Engineer, working on a variety of projects across robotics and printed electronics. More specifically, I work with companies to develop printing technologies for the electronics industry and aid them in trialling and adopting new technologies to enhance their own production. Something I’m particularly excited about is that I’ve recently started working more in the robotics industry looking at how we can use these technologies to improve waste in the fashion and textiles industry.


To build upon research in this field, I recently graduated from my engineering doctorate in printed electronics. I am passionate about supporting my network in their careers and chair the Early Careers Board for the Women’s Engineering Society.


Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?


I’ve worked in a broad range of industries including automotive, healthcare, research, printing, insurance and underwriting, and in government advisory services.


One project that I thought was different from my traditional engineering role but shows the breath of application of engineering was The “Thunderstorm” dress (a Rainbow Winters project). A dress that turns the wearer into a living representation of a thunderstorm. It lights up in response to sound, and as the volume rises, the dress illuminates to create ‘visual music’. It was developed for the “Wired to Wear” exhibition in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry to demonstrate the potential of a new form of inorganic printed electronics, specifically, micro light emitting diodes (LEDs). The technology used here is not an add-on feature but used as an expressive tool and is a great demonstration of the novel LED technology. (Link: https://e-textiles-network.com/thunderstorm-dress/)


Another experience that was valuable outside of my engineering career, was when I worked with the Welsh Government as a Data Analyst. I gained perspective on how the government is implementing circular economy approaches and is integrating research to policy. I fed back to the government on key research findings regarding changes on the TCA Brexit agreement during my placement and was on a panel for grant applications approval within the circular economy team.


Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?


STEM! I have thoroughly enjoyed a very STEM orientated career so far, having done an undergraduate degree and doctorate in Engineering. I worked in the automotive and printing industries but I’ve also worked in finance and in the Welsh Government which has given me a broader understanding of funding and policy implementation, all of which has been beneficial in the roles throughout my career.


Where did your professional journey start?


I first began to think about engineering when I was at school. I had three amazing STEM teachers who encouraged me to critically analyse scientific content, to take my interest in the field and become more involved. I’m grateful for their influences in my early school years.


How did you get into tech and what motivated you?


The teachers at school encouraged me to get involved in a project called the Engineering Education Scheme, where we worked with a local company to design an underwater surveillance camera. It was great opportunity to meet other Engineers and get involved in the design and manufacture process. This project and my teachers’ enthusiasm for the subject led me to study Engineering at university.


"You get to work with incredibly talented individuals with whom you can have fascinating conversations and get involved in real blue sky thinking and conceptual work."

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?


Two moments that particularly stand out.


One was during lockdown. A group of lecturers and students, including myself, were using 3D printers around the University to make face visors to protect local key workers against COVID. Our team would come onto site to design and make the face visors. The number of people in the area requesting them was more than we could help, but it was amazing to be able to help at all in such an uncertain time!

The other moment was when I received two awards: The Women’s Engineering Society’s Women in Engineering WE Top 50 Engineering Heroes Award and the WeAreTheCity – Rising Star Award. I was absolutely delighted, and it was an incredible feeling to see my name next to so many influential and incredible people who have contributed significantly to their respective fields.


What do you like / not like about working in tech?


I love the variety of STEM projects that it’s possible to get involved with. My career has been incredibly varied and there’s always been a new and interesting experience to learn from. You get to work with incredibly talented individuals with whom you can have fascinating conversations and get involved in real blue sky thinking and conceptual work. The industry still has a number of challenges around achieving equity but I see so many groups, organisations and individuals making an impact every day.


"Collaboration is key - just ask, be curious, learn quickly and be comfortable with failures or when things go wrong. It’s by far the best way to learn."


And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?


My advice is to be curious about everything in life. We never stop learning and it can be challenging to allow yourself to be beginner in something new but it’s definitely rewarding!


Hand in hand with being curious is to never be afraid to ask questions. There's always going to be someone with more knowledge than yourself on a subject so why hold back? Collaboration is key - just ask, be curious, learn quickly and be comfortable with failures or when things go wrong. It’s by far the best way to learn.

Finding a mentor early on to help guide you can be useful in being able to have a chat with more Senior Engineers or Engineers who are in the profession you are interested in moving into. You can understand what they do and why they do it, what do they feel their purpose is and why it gives them the satisfaction to come in each day and excel.

Gaining experience outside of school or university can help you to understand roles which can help you decide what you are truly passionate about. Even if it’s a basic task, it will teach you skills for life, help you connect with others and help you to stand out from the crowd for any interview. This is a great way of becoming confident with asking questions and developing into an effective communicator, which is by far one of the most important qualities in any profession but is incredibly important in a technical environment to make sure nothing goes too wrong!

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