Weald of Kent Grammar School, Kent, then University of Surrey
10.5 GCSEs (Triple Science, DT, Art, French, German, English Lang and Lit, Maths, and half qualification in RE). A levels in French, Maths, DT and Physics
I did a one year placement at Surrey Satellite Technology then got a graduate job at Airbus Defence and Space and stayed here ever since!
Locomotion Subsystem Manager on the Sample Fetch Rover
Favourite thing to do in my job: Go to the Rover assembly facility (we call it a cleanroom) to see my designs being built!
I love making things! I live with my husband, my cat Rusty and my 1 year old baby son.
I have just come back to work after 3 months off on maternity leave looking after my son, who has just turned one. I live with my husband, my baby son and my cat, Rusty, as well as several fish. I like making things! I spend most of my free time making something or other, and I always have more than one project on the go and another few planned! I also like to cook, particularly cakes and baking. I like to run as I find it very good for my mental health to get outside in the fresh air doing exercise, though I also enjoy my weekly ballet class. I love travelling and went to Thailand, Cambodia, Greece (Corfu), France and a cruise through the Caribbean last year (as well as Zurich, Paris and San Francisco with work).
My Work on the ExoMars Mission
I have done lots of jobs on ExoMars! I started off leading the team that designed the structure (the body) of the rover, then I led the build and test of the first (test) build of the rover, then the flight rover!
I started working on the ExoMars Rover a very long time ago, (2012) as a lead structure design engineer. That meant I was leading the team of design engineers to design the actual body of the rover. My team had people like computer modelling, strength analysis, materials and test specialists in it.
The rover takes a very long time (about 5 years) to go from a concept design, through a series of materials and smaller scale tests, to the first full build of the rover (which isn’t the one that goes to Mars, this first build is used for lots of different tests to make sure the whole thing works together as designed) and then the final (flight) build of the rover. In the concept design phase my team was just me and 4 other people, but in the test phase I was in charge of 25 people!
Once the structure of the rover was fully designed I could have moved to a different project and designed the structure for that – but I wanted to stay on the rover project. That meant I needed a different job, so then I moved to being in charge of the company that manufactured the structure (which was good as I was able to make sure they understood our design properly and that they built it all correctly). At the same time I was also responsible for the first full (test) build of the rover, so not just the structure but also things like the equipment, power systems, and everything else that goes into the rover. The testing for that rover happened in Toulouse in France in 2018, so I spent about 8 weeks out there over the summer making sure the test ran correctly, and that everything worked as planned.
I then had three months off work to have my baby son, then came back to work in April 2019 and helped with the planning for the testing on the flight rover, which is just finishing off at the moment.
Now I’m moving onto a new rover mission – the sample return rover. I am in charge of one of the major subsystems on this rover, the locomotion subsystem (all the mechanical bits that make the rover drive, like wheels, suspension, motors etc). This is going to be built by a Canadian company, so I am spending a lot of time working with them to agree how the parts from each of our companies will work and “co-engineer” our solution.
My Typical Day: Pre-lockdown answer: I drop my son off at nursery and then get into work some time between 8 and 9. The first job of the day is to make a cup of tea to drink while I read emails! I spend most of my day at my computer or in meetings with my team mates. I have lunch with my friends, and normally go home some time between 4 and 5.
My coronavirus lockdown normal day is get up when my baby wakes up (6:30-7am), shower, negotiate with my husband on which meetings and telecons we each need to be uninterrupted for (i.e. when the other person has to be looking after our baby son) and then generally try to juggle working around looking after a toddler who is hell bent on injuring himself and can’t be left unsupervised for a moment! Fortunately my husband works with teams east of the UK, and I work with people in Canada and North America, so his meetings tend to be early morning UK time and mine later into the evening- so we do a kind of two shift working day. But we’re both very fortunate that we have jobs still and can work from home, so we are trying to remain as positive and grateful as possible that we are “STAYING HOME AND SAVING LIVES.”
Before this all kicked off, I would have said:
I don’t really have a typical day! Sometimes I travel to go and see the teams manufacturing parts of the rover for us, but when I’m in the office I get to work some time between 8 and 9, and normally deal with emails while I drink a mug of tea while my brain is kicking in (I’m not a morning person).
We have quite a lot of meetings to discuss and decide on different parts of the rover design, sometimes in person with the teams based in Airbus, and sometimes by videoconference with teams working in other companies or countries.
As I am in charge of my part of the rover design, (for the ExoMars Rover I was in charge of the structure, but now I am working on the sample fetch rover) the people in my team send me the test results or analysis they have worked on, and I have to decide what that means for our design, whether it is ok to go ahead with the current design or if their new information means we need to make changes. If we have to change things I communicate to my team what new work they need to do, and my ideas on how we could change the design to meet the new requirements, and then we will decide together which is the best solution.
I always try to have lunch with my friends either in the work canteen, or sometimes we walk into the town centre if it’s a nice day.
I spend time between meetings writing reports, looking at the results of tests or analysis that has been done, planning new tests or trying to think of different ways to solve any problems we’re having, and communicating to my team either by email or with a powerpoint presentation whether we need to change our design and if so how it needs to change because of the latest test information.
When I get the time I like to do outreach for schools or universities, and I sometimes even get asked to talk about my work in interviews for newspapers or on tv!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Not very tall
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Designed stuff that is now in space, orbiting the Earth! (Sensible answer) Also hula-hooped on the wing of a Concorde. (Less sensible answer) And drove a Mars Rover at two heads of state when I wasn’t sure if it was going to stop. (Pretty stupid but they asked me to – it’s a long story) And got a private tour of NASA (Epic) And went on Stargazing live with Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain and Brian May from Queen. (Terrifying) Loads of things have been great, really!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Teachers at school suggested engineering, and I saw stuff on the news about a British led Mars mission, which I thought looked cool!
What was your favourite subject at school?
Design Technology or Art
What did you want to be after you left school?
Anything that let me draw, design and create things for a living.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Rarely- I was pretty shy. I used to get told off for always asking when I was EVER going to use certain Maths things in real life. Turns out- loads. Ooops.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Something else creative- maybe Product Designer or Architect?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I'm not very cool. I think my favourite singer atm is Taylor Swift! I also love Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20 and Something Corporate- but they were old when I was at school so they’re even older now!
What's your favourite food?
I make a mean Chocolate Brownie, does that count?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Bought an ex post van, converted it to a camper and drove around 24.5 European countries with my boyfriend in my 4 month summer holiday from Uni!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Happiness and Health for me and my family and an interesting challenge every day at work!
Tell us a joke.
Three kittens are on a sloping roof- which one slides off first? The one with the lowest Mew.