Gemma, Olga and Oyinda, Engineers, Whessoe Engineering Limited

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Olga Castaneda-Cabrero – Senior Civil Engineer

Oyinda Falaiye – Senior Process Safety Engineer

Gemma Warner – Senior Structural Engineer


What are your jobs like?

Gemma: I’m a civil and structural engineer and I work with steel and concrete structures on projects in the petrochemical and energy industries. My work involves applying maths and engineering principles on a daily basis to ensure that the weight/load calculations are correct. LNG is liquid methane turned into liquid so it takes up less space for easy and safer transport.

Olga: I’m a civil engineer designing parts and concrete structures on liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal projects. This includes using software to design the concrete foundation and anything above the foundation. My job is to ensure the design meets the project requirements and specifications.  I am Spanish and been working in the UK for three-and-a-half years.

Oyinda: As a process safety engineer, I identify potential risks early in the design so that they can be eliminated or mitigated in order to prevent major hazards such as fires or explosions. This includes designing the fire protection systems, fire and gas detection, risk assessments and ensuring plant accessibility. I have worked on the design of FPSO, offshore platforms and cryogenic storage facilities. When LNG is release, it rapidly vaporises. If it forms a flammable mixture, there is a risk of a fire or explosion and so it is very important that safety systems are designed properly.


How did you get into manufacturing?

Gemma: When I was a 14 year-old in school, a gentleman asked me why high rise buildings don’t fall over in the wind. From then I was hooked. However, some people told me my maths weren’t good enough to be an engineer, but hard work and perseverance got me where I am today. Originally, I started in the building industry and then moved to heavy industry and manufacturing.

Olga: When I was 15, I realised that I liked maths and physics and then by 18 I knew I wanted to study engineering. I’ve always worked in the energy field –in nuclear and power plants. Then I moved to the energy field because it is a very interesting and a specialised field. The types of structures we design are not usual.

Oyinda: I grew up in Nigeria, and my dad is a civil engineer, that was my initial driver. At age 9 or 10, I remember having a discussion with my cousins about make a flying car. When I told my dad about these ideas, he said maybe you should be an engineer. Then, I thought chemical engineering would be better for a woman because I associated mechanical engineering with using tools or heavy equipment. I got my first job experience with Basic Engineering Design. Then experts from France came to train Nigerians in certain engineering subjects. Through that programme, I learned many things and fell in love straight away. I started working on offshore projects and became aware of LNG.


What do you enjoy about working in engineering?

Gemma: No two days are the same. You might design the same kind of structure twice, but you never get the same result; there’s always a twist. And working with engineers you realise we’re all of the same ilk. We’re all curious characters that want to know how things work, that’s what drives us on. It’s the best career you can get.

Olga: Engineering is a dynamic world. And I know the work we do is very important and essential. We get to work as a team on subjects we like.  You have to really use your mind all day.

Oyinda: It’s challenging and interesting as you get to see how these humongous things are made and all the parts that go into them. You’re always asking can this be done? As a woman you bring in another perspective and outlook to getting things done. Sometimes that can bring resistance, but it makes it interesting to be different and think outside the box.


What are some the challenges you’ve encountered?

Gemma: I came out of school and was told my maths weren’t good enough to be an engineer and that I’d never get a degree. But I went onto university and got my first engineering degree and was then told by my first employer that I should consider a different career path. It just makes me want to prove them wrong. Now I have a Master’s degree and I’m going for Chartership. In my field there are more and more women in engineering. But you’ll find it’s very rare for a female engineer who gets it wrong, you can’t afford to.

Olga: When I was studying engineering, there were friends, neighbours and family who kept asking, ‘Why are you studying this? It’s so hard and are you going to make any money?” You learn not to listen to the critics. As a woman, you have to be assertive and make strong decisions even though some people might not like it.

Oyinda: You have to prove yourself continuously as a woman in a male dominated field. You have to prove your knowledge and that you’re capable. It’s a continuous process; you can’t make a mistake. You have to stand your ground on the principles of engineering.


What advice would you have for young women considering a career in engineering?

Gemma: Do it! I’ve never looked back, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It’s a career that can take you around the world. You can have a good career from a salary perspective as I’ve known people who have worked offshore around the world and retired in their 40s. The world is your oyster. Engineers have a hand in everything that runs the world. Engineering isn’t the perception that some people have of it.  

Olga: When you are studying engineering, make sure your group of friends that are supportive and you can study together and encourage each other. When you get into the workplace, make sure you work with a team that works effectively together. It can be a challenge sometimes, but when it’s not challenging you get bored!

Oyinda: Engineering provides a good work-life balance. It can take you anywhere in the world. I’ve worked in Nigeria, South Korea, France and now the UK. Engineering principles are the same everywhere and can be applied to so many fields from food to cars to chemicals. Engineers are always needed.

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