Ahead of International Women’s Day, we spoke to Joanna Crane, Undergraduate Engineer at The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology about her current role as a degree apprentice, passion for the STEM industry and advice to other women in technology.
For Joanna, IWD is about increasing the awareness of women in technology and engineering careers. It’s about empowering other women to achieve things that they want to in their lives. “I think if we’re in a position to share the work we do and inspire others, that’s passing on the baton. That’s why International Women’s Day is so special,” said Joanna.
Now in her third year, Joanna has worked across various teams in the business, experiencing everything from mechanical to software, to electronics engineering. For the next two years she’ll be working with the wearables team. The team has recently released the Dyson Zone, a wearable purifier.
Having always had a passion for maths, Joanna always knew STEM was the route she wanted to explore but was unsure where it could take her. It wasn’t until year 9 when she moved to a STEM specialist college to complete her GCSEs she got a passion for mechanics, which expanded into the field of engineering.
When looking at next steps after college, Joanna explored university options, and degree apprenticeships: “I realised I could gain real-world experience and my degree at the same time, something I was really passionate about having gained lots of industry experience and exposure to technology and engineering companies at college.”
Degree apprenticeships can help you thrive
When in sixth form, Joanna had lots of industry placements, from the likes of BT, Shell and Aviva.
During one placement at Vattenfall she truly became inspired to pursue a degree apprenticeship after realising it’s the environment she learns best.
“It took a woman that was excelling in her profession to believe in us, four young engineers, to show that we have the qualities to go into leadership roles in that field,” exclaimed Joanna.
Increasing participation and encouraging girls into tech careers
Joanna is passionate about increasing participation, and encouraging women and girls into tech careers as she wants everyone, from any background to realise they can do it.
“I was always told to be the role model I never had, and that’s something that’s stuck with me,” said Joanna.
“From the age of 10 onwards I didn’t really see a female figure in engineering, I didn’t know what engineering was, or even what technology roles were.
“It’s really important to be that role model we didn’t see in engineering because the young generation is never going to get that either unless we excel and demonstrate it.”
In her first two years at Dyson Joanna was the Outreach Representative at the Dyson Institute, allowing her to reach and go to different events, spreading the word about the company and its opportunities.
The hope is for degree apprenticeships to gain the exposure they deserve, so others in a similar situation can weigh up ALL the available opportunities, instead of being swayed into the more traditional routes.
Joanna is a 2023 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards finalist in the Apprentice category.
Having gone through open heart surgery in October 2021, Joanna returned to work within three months.
“Having had a challenging couple of years, being recognised is something that is quite special.”
“For me, it’s a point of getting recognition for people that might have been through similar troubles or situations, and showing that actually, we can still achieve and do well in our careers. It’s not something that’s got to hold you back, and there’s brilliant companies out there that are supporting people like me,” she explained.
To each and every STEM student…
Joanna urges anyone within the STEM space to back their decisions and try not to be too influenced by others because you know what’s best for yourself.
When she was in sixth form, lockdown was a blessing in disguise. Having applied to university, and got accepted into the University of Cambridge, Joanna was in a position where she’d applied to various degree apprenticeships too.
Despite the incredible offers and her teachers and people around her attempting to push her down the more traditional university route, Joanna knew it wasn’t what she wanted: “I knew that for me, working in industry and progressing through my degree was exactly what I wanted to do.”
“I think that’s something to my younger self I’d make very clear. You know what’s best for you if you’ve done your research, and you know how you can apply that. It’s important to back yourself in your decisions and have confidence.”
Whilst applying for degree apprenticeships, Joanna received some key advice: ‘it’s not an option until it’s an offer’. This encouraged her to apply to as many degree apprenticeship schemes as she could, including ones that she otherwise would have overlooked.
“You never know what direction it could take you in, and I’m so grateful that I got that advice because I would never be where I am today,” Joanna explained.
Another key piece of advice is to never be afraid of asking questions and getting things wrong. If you’re ever unsure, ask the question. That’s how you learn. You need to know how and why things don’t work to understand how they do.