Carol Holden, OBE, Chief Executive of Northern Automotive Alliance

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Carol-Holden 

What does your job entail?

I lead the Northern Automotive Alliance, a cluster organisation for automotive companies in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber. We provide networking, project management and grant funding assistance to support companies of all sizes.

The scope of the role is huge. We’re focused on helping companies collaborate and innovate within the unique challenges and opportunities of our region of the country.

 

Why do you enjoy working in manufacturing?

Working in engineering has given me the opportunity to travel the world and meet people and make friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

The work is incredibly varied, as it’s never the same job on your desk twice. You get a lot of satisfaction in the work that you do.

Of course, there are a whole range of pressures that go with it. Everything you do can have major consequences, from stopping a production line to handling customer issues.

 

How did you get into engineering?

I did my A levels in maths and physics, but I didn’t want to study them further, so engineering was the best choice (and my father was an engineer). I did a week’s work experience in the aerospace industry and went from there.

 

What challenges have you overcome in your career?

I started out at a very traditional UK company where people would make assumptions about women in terms of their marital status and what you would do if you got pregnant. However, there have been a lot of changes since then.

I then worked for an American company for 25 years where I found they were more open about inclusion for women.

Now, I find at the national level, people accept me because they know the job I had as Chief Engineer at Eaton and as Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Working with smaller companies, they’re not as used to seeing women in these types of roles.

 

What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in manufacturing?

I found being a female engineer wasn’t a disadvantage. It can sometimes help you get noticed more easily as your style is different than men. However, it can also mean management doesn’t see you as ‘high potential’ for leadership positions. I got where I did because of hard work, not because I was picked out as high talent.

As a woman, you need to learn how to sell your achievements and shout about them.

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