Women in Engineering Week - Interview with Rebecca Moore, Product Project Engineer - ilke Homes

As part of Women in Engineering Day, Elevation Recruitment Group brings you a series of interviews, published over the week. Our interviewees are women working in the engineering sector, in various roles and industries across the Yorkshire region.

Our fourth interviewee is Rebecca Moore, Product Project Engineer at ilke Homes. Rebecca is an experienced engineer that has progressed her career and expertise across varying manufacturing sectors, leading to her most recent and senior role within the modular home construction industry. As a result of her dedication to continuous improvement, and her contribution to the success of ilke Homes, Rebecca has been recognised and awarded for two consecutive years.

In this interview Rebecca explains what attracted her to the engineering sector, her career journey to date and shares some of her biggest challenges and greatest achievements.

What initially attracted you to a career in Engineering?

I always really enjoyed Maths and Science at school, so I continued to study those subjects further into GCSE and A-level, before I went on to study engineering at university. I also have a natural ability to problem solve, I enjoy finding solutions to any challenges that I am faced with by understanding how things work and taking components apart. I felt I could combine my passion for those subjects with my problem-solving skills to successfully build a career in engineering.  

Can you tell us more about your career and how you have got to your current position as Product Project Engineer?

I graduated from the University of Newcastle with a degree in Chemical Engineering, but I wasn’t sure on the industry to pursue, whether that be energy, chemicals or something different. After searching the recruitment market, I joined a manufacturing company that designed filter bags for different machinery. I spent a couple of years there, designing new components, finding solutions for issues that arose with the products, and sourcing and testing new materials. It was this role that made me fall in love with the manufacturing sector.

I then moved into an orthotics and prosthetics business for a few years, where I project managed a complete site move. Following that, I took the role of Manufacturing Engineer at ilke Homes, who manufacture and build modular houses. At that point, the concept of modular housing was a brand-new industry, and the business itself was in its start-up phase. I was the 22nd person to join the business - fast forward three years, they now employ hundreds of people. After two years, my department had a restructure and split the team into different disciplines, and that is when I began heading up the team that works on the buildability of new product and introduction of change to existing products. I lead a team of 4 as the Product Project Engineer.

What specifically attracted you to your position at ilke Homes?

Before I joined ilke Homes, I didn’t know much about the construction industry. I received a call from Ian Bruce, Regional Director of the Engineering and Manufacturing division at Elevation and he briefed me on the role and the company, and explained that it was a new industry, which intrigued me. I knew modular housing had been done decades ago when there was a shortage in homes, but the new concept of modular homes was totally different.

I liked the idea of combining manufacturing with an industry like construction that were very averse to change, so I knew it would be a challenge to alter people’s mindsets, ways of working and a chance to introduce new materials into the building process – that’s what excited me about the role at ilke Homes.

What do you enjoy most about your role in Engineering?

I like that every day is different, one day I could be faced with build issues where I need to identify and find a solution for material quality or late supplier deliveries, and the next day, I could be working on continuous improvement projects such as creating a modular kitchen solution, where I need to delve deeper into how we would approach it and what materials and labour resources we need to make that happen.

The business and industry that I am in keeps on growing so the challenges never end, which keeps it exciting. My team need to constantly review our expansion plans and implement processes to support that, so for example we can build eights houses in a day, rather than four.

What has been your biggest learning curve/challenge in your career?

When I joined my last business as Quality and Continuous Improvement Engineer, I was asked to manage a site move project within the first week. I didn’t have any experience in project management, I had used Gantt charts at university and worked on a scenario basis, but that was not practical or real life. The project involved moving 100 people and all of the equipment we had on site over to another facility. I was responsible for finding and arranging a removal company, and organising the move to set times, whilst working to a set budget for any new equipment/facilities required.

It was a challenge due to the timescales, but also the company wanted to rebrand everything at the same time and give the new facility a total refresh – on a relatively small budget. Project managing whilst in my second week of a new role and company was difficult, purely because I didn’t have any relationships established and did not know who the right contact for different areas of the business. 

Overall, the project was a success, and I was able to get everyone moved into the new site within a week of each other with only a half day loss on production time. To execute that with very little project management experience was quite an achievement.

What has been your biggest achievement in your engineering career to date?

I have been involved in a lot of improvement projects at ilke homes. Over the last two years, I have been leading a project in the transition of roller to spray paint for wall emulsion.  This has been a challenge in changing mindsets, as many people in the business have traditional backgrounds. In doing this, I have worked with production and the supply chain and spent time testing and demonstrating to the team the positive impact it has, such as reducing the application and drying times.

We have also had to spend working with our installation teams to ensure the change doesn’t impact the finishing works that they completing the final onsite works so it has been challenging co-ordinating all functions within the business to make the change live.

Can you tell us more about the MAD 2019 and 2020 awards you received and what that entailed?

The Make a Difference (MAD) Awards at Ilke Homes are an opportunity for the whole business to nominate an employee that they feel has contributed to the success of the business both in their roles and departments but cross functionally too and supported continuous improvements. In 2019, the awards included the entire business, but in 2020 it was solely for those working in the operational side. In 2019, I was one of three people to receive this award and in 2020, I was one of four to win. I try to support the wider business in problem solving to make every day a little easier for everyone else.

What do you think are the main qualities you need to succeed in an engineering role and the industry as a whole?

Strong interpersonal skills are really important. As an engineer in any industry, you need to be able to work with many different functions such as design, production and purchasing, to create a team that is supportive and works with you to achieve the end goal.

Good communication skills are equally important. You need to be clear and concise when discussing the project and your objectives to enable you to work together effectively.

I would say most critically, you need to have the natural ability to face problems, gather and analyse information and communicate that solution.

Do you think there is more that needs to be done in education to engage young women into engineering subjects?

Yes definitely. I’m not sure on the exact figures but around 20% of people studying engineering are female.

In my personal experience, if you ask people what they visualise when they think of an engineer, and they would say or draw a man. I think the reason for that was and still is due to internet and book resources, they mainly include photos of male engineers and are written by males too. We need to include more diversity and show the female role models in our industry.

I also think education settings need to invite more female engineers and into their surroundings to educate and provide general talks on the opportunities in engineering. When I was at school, I was not aware of half of the roles or industries there are in engineering.

In 2019 ilke Homes took part in an apprenticeship fayre, and we gave people a chance to win a day at on-site with us. The students visited our site and got to learn how we operate, what a day on-site looks like and how manufacturing and construction works. This was an opportunity to get young people excited about engineering and I think many businesses could do more of that to engage with the future generation.  

If you were to sell the idea of a career in Engineering, what would you say are the best things about it?

There are so many diverse opportunities that you can get involved in as an engineer and the specific engineering subject you choose to study will not define your career. My role and the industry I work in has no relation at all to what I studied at university. In my personal experience, I have worked in three very different industries, and I have learned skills in all of them that I apply in my current role. The skills are extremely adaptable.

In Engineering, every day is different, so if you are someone that does not like to do things repetitively, this is most definitely industry for you. The diversity is what sells it to me.

What is the most important advice you would give to women who are interested in starting a career in engineering?

Do not be put off if you are the only women in your class. If you are choosing to study a STEM subject and your friends are not taking it, do not make that the reason why you do not take them. I was the only female in my class and I still really enjoyed it.

Try to also seek out free taster day opportunities at universities or work experience in industry, this will give you a real insight into engineering. When I was in sixth form, I was able to go to a Women in Engineering week at the University of Strathclyde where I met lots of young women who were excited about a career in engineering. These sort of events open your eyes into all the different engineering degrees available and introduce you to a network of people with similar interests.

For more information on this interview or to discuss how we can help you in your engineering and manufacturing recruitment requirements, please contact John Bohan on 07985 151 131 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

 

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