Ayrshire College’s female STEM network – Ayrshire Connects – held its second annual meetup, ‘Girls with Grit’, on 19 June 2017. To continue the theme of the event we will be interviewing a series of ‘girls with grit’ across Ayrshire and beyond.
I am Wendy Pring and I am a mum to three children and a chartered civil engineer who is passionate about the circular economy. I have been doing my current job for 14 years, which is Managing Director of KCP.
We started the business when our two oldest children were little to help manage our childcare issues whilst still using our skill sets from our previous employed jobs. We undertake industrial maintenance across multiple sectors across the UK and have just obtained a UK patent for our fluid transfer system.
Where did your career start?
I started working during holidays as part of my work experience whilst I was still at university with a small environmental consultancy known as John Dunbar and Associates. I completed my last exam on the Friday and started work on the Monday with this company. By the time I had graduated the company had merged with two larger organisations to form Crouch Hogg Waterman, incorporating John Dunbar & Associates! This was a fantastic opportunity for me and my work experience during university shaped the direction I wanted to go in for my career, which was into a more environmental aspect of civil engineering.
I worked with this consultancy for three years and then started to look for a company that I could gain on-site construction experience which was required to become a chartered civil engineer. This provides additional comfort to other people that you undertake your work in an honest manner and it is encouraged with most employers that you continue doing this. This resulted in me moving down to live around Chester/North Wales where I worked for a waste management company for 10 years. I was responsible for all site engineering works and managing all construction personnel in the construction of environmentally safe landfill sites. This was just at the point where legislation was brought in that demanded greater engineering construction design to protect the environment as well as trying to harness renewable energy from these to put in to the national grid.
Did you attend College/University?
I went to Strathclyde University in Glasgow to study Civil Engineering. I had wanted to be a vet and spent most of my secondary years at school and some at primary reading about and volunteering in vets and stables to gain experience with animals! I didn’t quite get the grades I expected in my Highers and had to return to school for a 6th year. I wasn’t a great lover of school but I did know that I had to do it to allow me to go on and do something that I DID WANT TO DO! I got some excellent advice from my sixth year physics teacher who told me, “look at this prospectus and see if there is anything that sounds interesting’. I liked the sound of environmental engineering but my physics teacher suggested civil engineering as a broader subject base from which I could specialise. This is sort of what I have done. I started at university the following year, not really sure what I was studying and in a class of 66 with six girls.
Is there equality in this industry?
I found in my early career that equality was not present and I did face some unnecessary comments from my working colleagues. Most of these were around the general topic of “you are a woman, how can you be an engineer?” It was unexpected, as up to the point of my first job I had experienced nothing in my life that would suggest that there was any gender issues with any job. I did not like it much and I did find a one-liner that managed to dismiss most of it. I was even told on my first day of a new job, after a two-stage interview and a psychometric test, that they didn’t usually employ female engineers!
I didn’t discuss it with anyone until I was much older as my confidence levels were not that great before then. I received less pay than male counterparts. However, at a point in the growth of one of the companies I worked for they restructured the company, bought other companies and made some people redundant. I was fortunate that during this period I was promoted to a national engineer for the company. My advice to anyone is to ignore most of it and share it with those you trust. Most of it, I know now, was jealousy. I naturally love the type of work that I do and my advice is to look at things that make you gasp or smile and work will seem less tiresome and other challenges will be less important.
Do you have any career secrets or tips?
Take part and network effectively from day one! Not with intention of getting anything but simply to learn. Go along and listen to people at conferences and understand the wider nature of work and life and how you can participate.
I think it is important that girls understand the value that they can offer to the growth, development and protection of our planet. There should be no boys versus girls. We just have different skills sets. We are different. We look at things differently from boys. This is a good balance for any employer to ensure that all options are being looked at and we become a more inclusive, diverse, developed world!
Find out more about Ayrshire Connects and how you can be involved here.