Ana Gallego, Materials Engineer, Blatchford

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Ana-Gallego 

What does your job entail?

I work at Blatchford as part of the design team for artificial limbs. Specifically, my team looks at the materials that go into our products. We’re always looking for ways to improve the use of materials in the manufacturing process.

 

How did you get into manufacturing

After finishing my second masters in plastic product design, I was trying to find a job in the aerospace or automotive industry. However, I came across prosthetics and thought about this career path I never thought about before. I guess I didn’t realise how much engineering goes into making artificial limbs.

That led me to undertake a graduate work programme at Blatchford through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (now run by Innovate UK). Now I’m manager of the materials team.

 

Why do you like working in manufacturing?

I like that it’s quite easy to prove what you’re done something that positively impacts someone’s life. We test products on amputees, and they tell you straight away how it impacted their life. One of our patients told me that he can now run marathons without stopping thanks to his prosthesis.  

 

What challenges have you encountered?

I found that at university, you learned a lot of theory and calculations, but you don’t learn as many hands-on skills. Then when you get into the workplace, there is an expectation that as an engineer you have those hands-on skills as well. Ideally, you learn as you go along and it’s definitely helpful to have a perspective on the overall product development cycle.  

It is a very male dominated industry; it is quite shocking how few women are in it. That’s part of the reason I became a STEM ambassador. I realised when I was a student how few people know about all the different careers that are available to engineers. It’s very important for young people to know what’s out there and expose them to professionals in the field.  

As part of my STEM ambassador role, in January I did some stand-up comedy via a project funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and run by the incredible Steve Cross. I also got interviewed by the BBC Family and Education News.

I was also very fortunate to win ‘I am an engineer, get me out of here’ in the category of ‘Artificial Body Zone’, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. The price awarded was £500 to reinvest in a personal project for outreach. I decided to start building a website, which I am currently building, where I can connect my big two passions: materials and cooking.

 

What advice would you have for a woman thinking about a career in manufacturing?

You can do anything, and just because something looks difficult, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

For example, during the Second World War, women were building weapons and aircrafts in the factories, so that proved women could use all sorts of different machines and there’s no barrier.

If you truly love engineering, then go for it.

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