Recently, the media has been focusing on the shortage of female engineers.

Initiatives such as National Women in Engineering Day – a day dedicated to raising the profile and celebrating the achievements of women in engineering – provides an opportunity for organisations such as NATS to inspire future generations and demystify what an engineering career means in reality.

There are many female engineers within NATS occupying a range of roles and with differing seniority; ranging from industrial placement (IP) students to senior management posts responsible for hundreds of staff.

Standing: Sitting:

(Standing left to right): Julie McCormick, Senior Engineer, Katie Butler, Project Manager
(Sitting left to right): Lynda Powell, Senior Systems Engineer, Fiona Joss, Swanwick Watch Manager.

Sue Dempster, Senior Engineer Surveillance Support, Prestwick

Our first featured engineer is Sue Dempster, based at our Scottish air traffic control centre Prestwick as a Senior Engineer Surveillance Support. Her main job is looking after the Training and Development Unit at Prestwick (simulators, Troy and NODE). She also looks after the SMF (Separation Monitoring Function) and helps other members of the team to look after the operational NODE, ADRs, generic control and monitoring system (GCAMS) and workstations.

Sue’s career started after a visit to the RAF careers office, where an aptitude test revealed her suitability for engineering. She was taken on under the former one-year YTS (Youth Training Scheme) and stayed with the RAF for a further 9 years as an Airfield Technician, looking after communications, radar and nav aids before seeing an advert in the local paper for NATS’ Air Traffic Engineers.

On joining NATS Sue was employed as a support engineer in the Data Communication department, followed by working in Voice Communications. She completed her Certificate in Management Studies (CMS) course and moved to the Radar Data Processing (RDP) section, looking after Skyline, SMF and the Area Radar Training Facility (ARTF) , giving her experience in a number of different jobs and providing her with variety in her working life.

All being well, Sue’s next step on her professional journey will be to become a System Manager.

When asked what she enjoyed most about her job Sue said it was the people as well as the variety of work, a common sentiment amongst those interviewed for this series: “You never know what the day will throw at you” was her comment. Sue also enjoys working with projects, such as the Prestwick Centre Upper Airspace (PCUA).

Sue acknowledges that in most places she has worked there have not been many female engineers but believes more have begun to enter the profession and stresses that she has not had any problems working in a mainly male environment, finding most male colleagues encouraging.

As for being a female engineer, Sue says simply “go for it”.

Next in the series we will feature an engineer from Hampshire, the other end of the UK from Prestwick, who became an engineer through a completely different route.

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