Devon Sumner, Programme Project Leader, Airbus

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Devon-Sumner 

Why do you enjoy working in manufacturing?

I work in a team that is responsible for Configuration and Product Development and in a nut shell we are accountable for the end to end management of modifications to Airbus wings. We manage a wide range of changes, which can be driven by a number of factors from cost reduction, quality improvements and continued Airworthiness. In most circumstances, we manage the idea from cradle to grave, taking an immature concept through to permanent embodiment on the aircraft.

I’m responsible for managing a number of different tasks, across different programmes, simultaneously. This not only require great organisation but also good communication skills as my role requires me to interface with a range of different business functions and both internal and external stakeholders.

The job also requires a great deal of tenacity as it’s not uncommon to regularly face people who are resistant to change and just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

 

How did you get into manufacturing?

I started a university degree in product design, but it wasn’t for me. I’d always been interested in aeronautics as I lived near the Doncaster airport growing up. I attended an open day at the Airbus plant in Broughton, when I decided to consider an Apprenticeship and the rest is very much history. I was so in awe of the sheer scale of the manufacturing facility and I knew straight away this was where I wanted to start my career. I was accepted on the Undergraduate Engineering Apprenticeship scheme in 2011 and I haven’t looked back since.

I find it exciting that we’re responsible for contributing to these aircraft that people fly around the world in every single day. It’s a great job because no two days are the same. And you’re not just sitting behind a desk. You get out and about and into the manufacturing facilities.

 

What challenges have you overcome in your career?

When I first attended the Airbus open day, I was initially quite intimidated as I was the only girl in attendance. However, I got over the fact it appeared to be a male dominated industry very quickly and I know feel extremely at ease in my environment. It’s all about having the confidence in yourself to say, “I can do this”.

 

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

Don’t be intimidated. Manufacturing and engineering isn’t just about spending your days in a boiler suit. There’s a wide variety of careers, so don’t dismiss anything as a male dominated role.

Explore outside the box and look into the vast range of roles available in Manufacturing. There’s a lot of great role models out there, proving every day, that women are thriving in diverse and demanding Manufacturing and Engineering roles.

Once I started an Aeronautical Engineering Apprenticeship at Airbus, my sister also decided to pursue a career in Manufacturing and she just completed an Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship with Siemens. I hope we can all continue to inspire other women to consider what can only be described as a varied and rewarding career in Manufacturing.

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