International Women in Engineering Day is on Sunday, and this year’s theme is ‘Transform the Future’; an inspirational and aspirational aim that is needed to help achieve gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths industries. Currently, women only make up around 12% of the engineering sector in the UK.

From my very first memory, my dad has always been an engineer. Growing up I never really knew what his job entailed, but hadn’t considered it as a career for myself.

In 2017 my dad invited me to visit NATS as part of their ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’. Alongside 20 or so other young women, we took part in a fun day of activities and knowledge sharing workshops where I got to learn more about air traffic control and the different parts that bring it all together – including engineering.

After attending the day, I was inspired to look into a career in engineering for the first time and have never looked back!  As well as NATS I applied to three different companies for engineering apprentice roles and after receiving offers from two out of the three, I ultimately decided that NATS’ Early Careers Scheme was the best option for me.

Katie having some down time with her Early Careers colleagues.

I’m now an Engineering Technician at Swanwick Centre, which is one of NATS’ two control centres in the UK. The operation here is split in to two parts – Area Control, which manages en route traffic over England and Wales up to the Scottish Border, and Terminal Control which handles traffic below 24,500ft flying to or from London’s airports.

What many don’t know is that behind the scenes there’s a world-leading team of architects, engineers and scientists who are imagining, designing and building the next generation of air traffic management systems.

As well as maintaining the UK’s infrastructure of radar, communication, navigational aid and data comms sites, the engineering team are vital for ensuring the systems and technology our Air Traffic Controllers use is up-to-date and working at its best, so it makes me feel really proud to play a part in ensuring over 250 million passengers fly safely each year.

As part of my role, I first had to carry out training which gave me an overview of the systems and safety requirements before I got involved with the operational environment. Once I completed that, I returned to Technical Operations, where I could then begin assisting the trained engineers with a variety of tasks, including general maintenance for all of the systems, fixing faults on air traffic control workstations, and taking radars in and out of service.

I have also had the opportunity to plug in with air traffic controllers (ATCOs) to get a better understanding of how they manage aircraft and their different workloads.

The part I most enjoy is getting to see the innovation. STEM professionals are pushing the understanding of technology and literally building the future. My career in STEM has given me the chance to see the cutting edge of tech, such as the digital tower which some said couldn’t be done, yet here I am walking past it every morning.

Alongside my work in Technical Operations, I am also carrying out a HNC qualification in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a Business Improvement Project.

There are always going to be set-backs and challenges. But you need to remember what you take away from those experiences and use it to your advantage; don’t let it drag you down. Trust that these opportunities will allow you to grow and help you better yourself in the future. Luckily, NATS is heading in the right direction towards a more diverse STEM workforce but for now, as the minority in this sector, we need to be brave and take whatever steps we can towards paving the way for the women of the future.

It has never been more important to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in engineering. If you’re interested in a career at NATS, or want to find out more about the opportunities on offer, head to

#INWED19 #TransformTheFuture #NotJustForGirls

On International Women in Engineering Day I took over NATS’ Instagram page and answered lots of questions about my job and what it’s like to be a woman in engineering. Here are some of my favourites:

What is your job role?

I am an Engineer Technician which is part of the early careers scheme; it’s very much like an apprenticeship.

Are you an ATSEP? 

ATSEP stands for Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel. It’s a term for technical staff involved the electronic hardware and software systems used to support air navigation and Air Traffic Management. As part of my initial training I had 9 weeks of ATSEP and I am indeed now ATSEP qualified.

How did you get your job?

First I applied online and did a psychometric test. A little while after I was invited to an assessment day where I had an interview and 2 group activities which everyone was marked on. After a couple of weeks I received a phone call with a job offer and I jumped at the opportunity!

What qualifications did you need or was it an apprenticeship?

All I needed was a BTEC level 3 or equivalent, such as A Levels, with one being an IT or engineering related subject.

What has been your most exciting day at work so far?

The most exciting day was definitely the Heathrow Tower visit! We got a chance to go up the tower to take in the view and also drive round airside with a the engineers. It was an amazing experience with definitely brought out my inner AV geek.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the people I work with. From the day I started working here I have received mothing but support and help. Its really like a big family here, they have all made it the best experience I could’ve asked for.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is the HNC and Business Improvement Project work I’m doing as I have to keep up with deadlines whilst also making sure still on track with my work in technical operations.  It’s a lot to juggle but it’ll all be worth it!

What does a typical day look like?

On a normal day I get into for just before 8am. There is a morning briefing where the engineers discuss any work that’s happening during the day or any faults we need to be aware of. During the day I could do anything from fixing workstations, doing daily maintenance or even taking radars in and out of service. When I have time between, I try to sit at my desk and try to get some HNC work done.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years I hope to be a fully competent engineer working in the Technical Operations room.


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Emirkan Onal

i wanna be part of this as well!


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