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Lauren Neal: from Electronic and Electrical Engineering to Founder & Chief Programme Creator

Social media handle(s): LinkedIn

A few words about me:

Lauren facing the camera wearing a white blazer and pink top.

I’m originally from Aberdeen, Scotland and have worked in the energy sector as an engineer turned project manager since 2005. I have worked offshore, onshore, and onsite in very male-dominated environments, and strongly believe sectors with women in STEM are far from where they should be in terms of inclusive workplace cultures.

I published my first book in October 2023 ‘Valued at Work: Shining a Light on Bias to Engage, Enable, and Retain Women in STEM’ and launched my business ‘Valued at Work’ alongside. I now live just outside London which is handy as I love to travel!

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

I have worked offshore on vessels and platforms a few times - it didn’t feel strange at the time being in oil and gas, but when I speak with others outside of the industry it’s another story!

Each time I have been a client rep responsible for overseeing our contractor installing subsea equipment - this included monitoring of cable installation, testing, and interfaces with the platform (both equipment and people) and the installation vessel. I’ve always been the odd one out when I’ve been offshore - there are more women out there now, but still not enough to be anywhere near the numbers of men there.

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

STEM - I have a masters degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and became a chartered engineer through the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) in 2012.

Where did your professional journey start?

My first job was as an applications engineer for a software development company for optimising offshore assets. I really enjoyed the condition monitoring solutions as it was brilliant to be able to predict and therefore prevent equipment failures and downtime before they occurred.

The problem was, back then, the mentality was “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” - as they wouldn’t want to shut down a turbine or compressor when it hasn’t actually failed yet. It was unfortunate and I ended up spending more time on IT help desks than I would have liked due to lack of condition monitoring work coming through.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I always liked maths and computing at school. In my final year when I started applying to university courses, my technological studies teacher suggested I look at engineering as the principles will never change. I really enjoyed programming microcontrollers - both at school and at uni - and I always liked seeing how technologies can be implemented across industries.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

People always think I’m younger than I am. I turn 40 in June and I’m often spoken to like I’m just out of university with little experience! I’ve also had quite a few negative experiences where for example, I’ve been openly told the organisation wants me because I “tick the diversity box”, or that others “don’t see me as part of their tribe”.

I had one situation where someone in my team had forged my signature on his timesheet, and when I reported it to my manager he said “Well no one has ever done that to me so you need to think about what you’re doing and why he thinks he could do that to you.” Talk about victim blaming!

Lauren on a vessel offshore wearing a blue top sitting facing the camera in front of screens controlling a remotely operated vehicle.
"Always be clear on what you want out of your career in tech."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

It’s not all negative. I have had some brilliant advocates and sponsors in my career who have recognised my potential and given me challenging work that not only increased my capability and confidence, but also increased my visibility to get even more challenging scopes.

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

Every time I go onsite and see the sheer size of equipment that we deliver. It’s a different world from the office - people are different, the culture is different, but it shows how many parts make up the whole of what is a project.

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

I like testing the boundaries of technology and improving things for the next project.

I don’t like the workplace culture that exists in so many organisations today where everyone is competing with each other resulting in comments about why they think someone is in a particular job (ie due to their demographic instead of their capability / potential).

"Regardless of the behaviours and attitudes you may face, if you hold to your values and why you want to be in tech, you will find a way forward."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

‘Flying’ a remotely controlled vehicle (ROV) offshore - it was a bit like playing a games controller except you know, it’s real!

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

Always be clear on what you want out of your career in tech. Regardless of the behaviours and attitudes you may face, if you hold to your values and why you want to be in tech, you will find a way forward. And if anyone needs a little support, I am more than happy for anyone to contact me.


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