Following a successful STEM Returners programme after moving to the UK in January 2023, Elizabeth has accepted a permanent position with Amey Consulting. Read about how this has impacted Elizabeth’s career.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU
I am Elizabeth, born and raised in Zimbabwe. I graduated from the National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe in 2009 with an Honours Degree in Civil and Water Engineering. I relocated to South Africa in 2011. In 2021, I obtained a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
In my fourth year of studying during internship, I was mentored by a Professional Structural Engineer and that is when I developed a great interest in Structural Engineering. When I did my masters, I focused on Structural Engineering and Project Management.
WHAT IS YOUR WORKING BACKGROUND? IF YOU LIKE TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER BREAK
After my graduation, I worked for a construction company in Zimbabwe for a year as a Site Engineer and then I relocated to South Africa. In South Africa I worked for 2 private companies as a Civil/Structural Engineer and 2 Mining Companies. I also worked for the largest bulk water utility in South Africa as a Resident Engineer/ Engineer’s representative on site.
My last role in South Africa I was a Senior Civil and Structural Engineer supervising junior staff and checking and approval drawings and documents before issuing to clients.
In August 2022 my husband got a job in England I followed him in January 2023. I started applying for Structural Engineering jobs in February 2023 without success.
WHAT BARRIERS HAVE YOU FACED WHEN APPLYING FOR ROLES?
The challenges I faced were:
- I had lots of mining experience and there are no mines in the UK
- I had a senior role in South Africa and without the UK experience the companies did not want to employ me
- I opted for junior roles but I was not conversant with the softwares so the companies did not want to employ me
WHY DID YOU APPROACH STEM RETURNERS?
My husband had sent the STEM Returners vacancies in 2022 when I was still in South Africa but I did not apply. When I was being rejected that is when I remembered the website. I applied for Structures Engineer vacancy on the STEM Returners website on the 29th of March 2023. Claire from STEM Returners was in contact with Amey and on the 10th of April she sent the response from Amey.
HOW DID STEM RETURNERS HELP?
In the email Amey indicated that the Structures role was too demanding, however, they had a Project Management role and wanted to know if I was interested in the role. I always had a passion in Structural Engineering and Project Management so without hesitation I accepted the new career path.
An interview was scheduled with the Amey directors. Amanda from STEM Returners helped with the interview preparations, and I was offered the job. I also got a mentor through the STEM Returners programme who has been mentoring me throughout my 12 weeks programme. She will continue mentoring me after the programme.
The programme provided an opportunity to be accepted in the industry without viewing my previous experience as a drawback. The focus was on providing me the opportunity to showcase my abilities and values as a professional in a different role.
WHAT WAS THE END RESULT?
I have had the privilege to work with excellent and experienced professionals who are willing to help. Amey have offered me a permanent role.
HOW HAS THIS CHANGED YOUR CAREER?
This programme has boosted my confidence. I have also realised that though I am not conversant with the Structural Engineering Softwares, I have wide range of skills and experience that brings value to my employer.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT THE PROGRAMME OVERALL?
The programme is structured in such a way that the companies understand there may be a longer adjustment period required and additional support is necessary. The programme makes you realise some of the skills that you did not know you had. One can work to their full potential without being pressurised, gives equal opportunity to everyone and there is room for professional growth.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR RETURNERS LIKE YOURSELF?
- Be prepared to learn and research if you are changing careers.
- If you are changing careers, enter that new field with a positive mindset and tell yourself all things are possible, no mountain is too high to climb.
- I would highly recommend STEM Returners to anyone returning after a career break or career transition.