Hearing is believing for an acoustics specialist at Atkins
Vicky Stewart is an acoustics specialist and STEM Ambassador at Atkins, one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies. We chatted to her about her role in inspiring young people to pursue STEM subjects, and how this has benefited her and her career.
What is the benefit for you being a STEM Ambassador?
When I became a STEM Ambassador in 2012, I was fairly shy and terrified of speaking in public. Being involved in volunteering has given me a great deal of personal confidence through the interaction I’m able to have with young people, as well as with colleagues and peers. By undertaking more and more STEM activities, I’ve been able to improve my presentation, organisation, networking and people skills.
Being a STEM Ambassador has also allowed me to see my job as an acoustician through a different lens. It’s helped me to appreciate how far I’ve come in my career, how much I love my job, and how cool the work I do really is.
How has being a STEM Ambassador benefitted you in your job?
As a volunteer, I get the opportunity to meet a wide range of people and this has been a massive benefit to me professionally.
At inductions and events, I’ve had the chance to spend time with some of Atkins’ other 500 STEM Ambassadors and learn about their roles within our organisation. This has helped me get a broader understanding of other STEM careers that I can talk to students about, and has been a great way to build my network – something that is invaluable when you work in a big company. Being a STEM Ambassador has also given me the opportunity to work closely with company directors and senior managers; they’re incredibly supportive of the scheme often get involved in helping to promote it internally.
I believe that my increased confidence and understanding of Atkins’ business, and my exposure to other colleagues and senior leaders, contributed to my promotion from acoustics principal to associate in 2015 as well as my appointment to the role of national STEM Ambassador coordinator for Atkins in 2016.
How do you feel your role as a STEM Ambassador is contributing towards Atkins’ overall vision?
Atkins is known around the world for the difference we make through the work that we do and as we look to the future, it’s our ambition to stay at the forefront of solving some of society’s biggest challenges. But this is threatened by the reality that our industry is facing a shortage in technical skills; someday, there may not be enough people trained to do the jobs that need doing. As a STEM Ambassador, I know that I’m playing a critical role in making sure we can continue to solve our clients’ problems by motivating young people to understand, pursue and enjoy a career in STEM. And as the national STEM Ambassador coordinator, I can make sure we’re equipped to do this with as many young people as possible by helping staff get the maximum benefit from their involvement in the programme and ensuring the company values the work that they do as volunteers.
If you could say one thing to someone considering becoming a STEM Ambassador, what would it be?
Go for it! All STEM Ambassadors need is an enthusiasm for getting more young people interested in STEM careers. As a volunteer, you choose what to sign up to and when, and an experience of STEM activities can really change your life.
It’s important to raise aspirations in young people at an early stage and our STEM Ambassadors are a key resource to change the myths about what engineers are like, who can be one and the type of career they can have.