Our biggest-ever Future Engineers event is now up and running. Here’s the next edition of our series providing an insight into the lives of women engineers working in the rail industry today, with help from the Rail Delivery Group.
Nada Abouelhiga is a Digital Railway Support Engineer at the Rail Delivery Group. She explains more about her work, how she got into engineering and the advice she has for the engineers of the future.
Why have you chosen a career in engineering?
I didn’t always know I wanted to be an engineer. In fact, I wanted to study international relations and conflict resolution! I always liked maths and loved physics and chose to study them out of interest, without really having a plan to use them.
In college, like most students, I had a bit of an existential crisis and wondered what I really wanted to do with my life—I knew I liked problem solving and that I wanted to change the world for the better. I also knew I liked physics, so after a bit of counselling from our college chaplain I decided that engineering would tick all those boxes for me.
Oh, and I also liked Formula 1, so thought studying engineering would get me closer to the grid (it didn’t, but it got me closer to rail tracks… same thing?).
What are the most interesting aspects of your role?
I always see my role through two lenses: technical and people. I love the technical aspect of my role and discovering how new technology can and will improve our railway, and I also love hearing different opinions about this technology from the people I get to meet.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Rail Delivery Group?
Working at RDG gives you a high-level view of the whole industry. RDG are not only thinking about the railway of today but also tomorrow.
The people here are really subject matter experts and I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much, not only about engineering but also operations and policy. I think learning about the industry and railway customers will ultimately make me a better engineer.
Have you faced any barriers in your career to date?
Luckily, my only difficulty has been being spoiled for choice! Engineering is so varied, especially in the railway industry, and it can be hard figuring out exactly where you want to be. Good problems to have!
Do you notice that more women are becoming engineers?
Definitely. People told me not to do engineering because I would miss being around girls but that was so wrong. I have made loads of female friends who are engineers or studying engineering.
What was your dream job when you were aged ten?
Aged ten I was pretty sure I wanted to be a writer or a scientist of some sort (I thought a scientist was just a person doing experiments in a white coat!).
What did your family and friends think about you becoming an engineer?
My parents weren’t crazy about the idea at first—they always imagined me being a flashy lawyer. However, they definitely saw engineering as a good career, so they eventually came around.
What advice would you have for young people considering careers in science or engineering?
Just go for it! There is something for everyone in science and engineering and it’s really hard to get bored!
Have you always had an interest in trains and the railways?
No, not always. At university I became interested in transport and then narrowed in on railways because I used the trains every day. I was always interested in anything that moved and how it worked—the human body, cars, planes and now trains.
Have you been to the National Railway Museum?
Yes, I spent two weeks there doing a machine tooling course and had a great time!
Do you have a mentor and what do you think are the benefits of mentoring?
I have two! Mentoring is a great way to learn from the experiences of someone who is further into their career than you—I’m always surprised by how much advice my mentor has about things I would never have even considered.
When you’re not at work, what do you do to unwind?
I like to watch Netflix and chill out. I also like reading and lately have been testing my sanity by attempting to read Derrida!