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Claire Jeavons

Claire Jeavons - Process Engineer

Claire Jeavons

When I was growing up I was a real tomboy, always into Science and Engineering and making mud pies! History, Geography and English just didn't interest me at all. My Father, who is a Physicist and Behavioural Psychologist, still talks about a photo of us which appeared in a local paper to celebrate Fathers and Daughters day. It showed us both tinkering under the chassis of his classic Landrover - I was only a toddler!

When it came to doing options at GCSE I was determined to do Technology which included electronics, metalwork  and woodwork. In a class of thirty I was the only girl, and the teacher was incredibly sexist and negative, saying to me "You should be at home knitting - technology is not a girls' subject". His attitude made me want to work harder and I threw myself into the coursework, designing, among other things, a heat-activated fan which I was really proud of. When I got one of the highest marks in the class at GCSE, he said it was a fluke.

At A-level I studied Physics, Maths and French but a horrible bout of glandular fever meant that I didn't get very good grades. Luckily, Sheffield Hallam University accepted me for an HND and I managed to do well enough in my first year to go straight into the second year of the degree. After four years , including a year spent in industry with UK Clutches in Sheffield as a Quality Engineer, I graduated with a 2:1 BEng (Hons) in Computer Aided Engineering and Design. I was one of two girls on a course with over 200 lads.

In my final year I did a unit in process simulation which was really interesting and I decided this was the direction I wanted to go in. BT visited Sheffield Hallam and three of us were interviewed for six jobs as Process Designers. I was successful and embarked on the Graduate Training Programme at BT's research base in Ipswich. However I soon realised that I couldn't get enthusiastic about networks and I was a small fish in a very big pond. I really like to feel that I can make a difference and I felt that the research base was just too big for this to be possible. I wanted to work in the manufacturing industry.

I left BT 18 months later and came back to Sheffield Hallam to take up a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Consultancy role with Dormer Tools as a process improvement engineer. I stayed there for over two years developing simulation models of their two factories and saved them over £100k in efficiencies. The company then took me on to initiate their 'Lean Manufacturing Programme'.

My husband and I then upped sticks and decided to go travelling for a year. When we came back we worked as market traders and lived in a tent for 6 months in Devon and Cornwall, selling materials and clothes we had picked up in Goa on our travels. It was a great time and I always felt that I would be able to get another job when the time came. My husband started working as a Lecturer in Engineering in Fareham and I took a job as a landscape gardner as this was a hobby of mine - garden maintenance and redesign projects building walls and laying paving! I loved being outside and became incredibly fit, but left this job when we came back to Sheffield as I became pregnant and wanted to be close to my family.

Since 2006 I have been working at Sheffield Hallam University, taking maternity leave when my children were born as required. I now work on the Innovation Futures Project, offering process consultancy support to small and medium sized companies locally to help them stay afloat and hopefully make more money. I generally go into companies on my own and would say that I get a good reception, ensuring they know from the off that I am an engineer and feel comfortable on the shop floor, and I am well respected. They value the experience and expertise that I can offer personally, and feel that they are also able to tap into Sheffield Hallam's Research Centres for longer-term support.

For the future, I'd like to get some more letters after my name, possibly developing a stand-alone product through my own research. My colleagues have been really supportive and I feel that working here gives me the best of both worlds. I get the experience of industry that I crave, but I'm in a large organisation with access to the latest technology, and opportunities for personal development.

I wonder what my Technology teacher would say if he could see me now...!

Added on: 22/07/2010