Donna Gibbons – Graduate Engineer at Amey, Birmingham

Profile overview

Name Donna Gibbons
Age 23
Home town Galway, Ireland
Degree at Edinburgh Napier MEng Civil Engineering
Graduation date 2013
Role title Graduate Engineer
Organisation Amey, Birmingham
Interview date 21st August 2013
Interviewed by Ailish Fowler
Emily Alford and Donna Gibbons at graduation 2013
Donna Gibbons (right) with her classmate Emily Alfred (left) at graduation 2013

What was Donna’s experience at Edinburgh Napier University?

Donna’s experience at Edinburgh Napier University was positive. She particularly enjoyed:

  • The course structure, which allows students to focus on different aspects of learning as suited to their personal interests
  • The hands-on aspects of the course
  • The support offered by teaching and support staff, particularly Dr Jack Porteous and Dr Abdy Kermani
  • The resources on campus such as the 24-hour computer facilities in the JKCC
  • Completing a final year dissertation on a specific topic of interest to her: the performance of timber-framed walls

What is Donna doing now?

In Summer 2013 Donna joined Amey in Birmingham, working on highway development projects. Although at the time of the interview she had only been in her role a short while, she had already been introduced to many aspects of the job. These include briefing customers and working on evaluating future developments.

How did Donna get to this position and what are her ambitions for the future?

Initially Donna considered architecture as a career. However, having discussed this possibility with her teachers and family members, civil engineering seemed to be a more attractive course.

Donna started her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering in Galway, Ireland at GMIT. After 3 years on this course she moved to Edinburgh Napier University to complete her Masters degree. Donna chose Edinburgh Napier University on the basis of its reputation in engineering. She graduated with an M.Eng in June 2013.

Prior to joining the Edinburgh Napier course Donna had already undertaken some work experience in engineering: first for a local engineering firm in 2007, and then for Amey, where she now works, in 2010. Donna highly recommends getting some experience before moving on to university. For her, the work experience confirmed her desire to become an engineer.

Donna was successful in securing her job with Amey the week after her final exams. She feels that her previous experience with the company helped a lot in settling into her role. She fitted in easily because as she already knew a couple of the people working at Amey, and what to expect when she first arrived.

In the future Donna sees herself as a Chartered Engineer. She hopes eventually to move back to Ireland and find a job where she grew up.

What was Donna’s experience as a woman on an engineering degree course?

There were around five women out of fifty students on Donna’s course, so the gender imbalance was obvious. However, Donna never felt disadvantaged being a female student on the course. Her confidence was built in a number of ways. For example, some of the lecturers were female , and the female students often took on leadership roles in projects. Donna was inspired when she saw women doing well on her course.

What advice would Donna give to women wanting to work in engineering?

Donna believes that more information about careers in engineering should be given to women at a young age, for example at secondary school. This way, she argues, girls can be introduced to the different aspects of engineering and learn that the common stereotype of engineering as a “boys’ subject” is incorrect. She also recommends that female role models from disciplines such as engineering should visit school children to advise them on courses such as the one that she completed.

More generally Donna recommended keeping a diary through university and also at work. This is to keep track of work completed and to have record of it for the future. The helps prepare for working in an environment where you have to fill out a time sheet at the end of each week.

What was Donna’s involvement with Connect when she was at Edinburgh Napier University?

Donna attended a few of the Connect events. She enjoyed the presentations made by visiting female engineers, meeting other female students on engineering and computing courses at Edinburgh Napier, and getting to know the academic staff. Donna benefitted greatly from her involvement in Connect and believes that projects such as this should be available in other universities.


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