International Women in Engineering Day
Today we’re celebrating International Women in Engineering Day by sharing Sian Evans’ story. Sian works in our Network Strategy team as Lead Network Strategy Analyst and she tells us what her job involves, some of the challenges she has faced and why more young women should take up STEM subjects at school, college and university.
Sian has worked at SES Water for three and a half years. Before joining the water company Sian studied mathematics as an undergraduate for three years at the University of Exeter.
Sian explains: “I always enjoyed maths at school - I loved the sense of achievement you get when you solve a difficult problem and the fact that an answer can only ever be right or wrong. Maths explains so much of the world and is integrated into everything – from the ratio of ingredients you need when you cook a meal, to helping explain why climate change is happening. At the time I didn't know what I wanted to do beyond university but I knew that studying maths would offer a wide range of opportunities in my future career.
I initially joined SES Water as a temp in the Network Services team, dealing with customers and developers, but I knew this wasn’t really part of my long-term career plan so I applied to work in the Network Strategy team as a Leakage Analyst – a role that would involve working with data and using my mathematical degree on a daily basis. The leakage role also appealed to me as it had a clear link to helping the environment through reducing leakage.”
Sian has now been in the Network Strategy team for over three years and has recently been promoted to Lead Network Analyst.
Sian explains what her new role involves: “As the Lead Network Strategy Analyst my main responsibility is to calculate SES Water's leakage figure. It is more involved than you might think! Day-to-day, it involves checking and verifying hundreds of pieces of flow data from across our supply network. It is important that our leakage figure is accurate as there is huge reputational value attached to it. There’s a lot of data and small calculations that contribute to the leakage figure that need constant checking and recalculating to make sure we are reporting the right number.
I work closely with the new Leakage Analyst to identify data issues and pass them on to the right operational team to resolve - this is important as we need to have a good understanding of where our water is being used across our supply network and where it could be going missing.
Alongside my usual day-to-day activities, I have recently started working with a new piece of AI powered software. The software is being trialled to help alert us to burst water mains and leaks as soon as they happen – this means we should be able to respond quicker than ever to help reduce the amount of water being lost in our network. How cool is that!? It is a really innovative piece of software that is totally new to the UK.”
You can find out more about the new AI software and the partners helping deliver the trail at: seswater.co.uk/LeakageTechnology
Sian then explains why she enjoys working in this industry: “Water is essential to life. Working in the water industry helps provide a vital service that can make a real difference to the customers we serve and the environment around us. It’s an exciting time to be in the water industry as we have set ourselves our most ambitious targets to date - to cut leakage by 15% over the next five years and more than halve it by 2045. The water industry in general also faces a few common challenges - an ageing pipe network and the ever-increasing population that puts additional stress on these networks. Problem solving, innovative thinking and clever engineering will be key to solving these problems.”
Despite loving what she does, Sian shares some of the challenges she has faced as a woman in this particular industry: “I really enjoy my job and the meaningful work I do to help reduce leakage within our supply network, however it has come with some challenges – some that I thought would not have been an issue in this day and age. When I meet new colleagues or contractors for the first time, they’re often surprised I do what I do, and I believe this is because I am a woman. I am also in my early twenties and this sometimes throws them off too! I see male colleagues in similar roles and they receive a very different reaction. This also happens at industry events, which are typically heavily populated by men – to say I stand out, because I am a young woman, is a bit of an understatement!
I only think this kind of prejudice can be eliminated if more women take up roles in engineering. It’s an exciting and extremely rewarding sector to work in which is why it’s important to encourage young women at school and college to study STEM subjects. Studying any STEM subject teaches you transferrable skills that are useful in any line of work – skills in problem solving, practicing logical thinking and how to analyse data. I think awareness days like today help raise awareness of the variety of career opportunities available to young women, which can only help improve the imbalance.”