ADDEV Materials

Interview with Laura DARWIN: Production Manager at Parafix

Name : Laura Darwin

Function Production Manager at Parafix

Seniority, responsibilities and experience at Parafix :
I'm currently Production Manager in a team of over 40 people. My job is to ensure that production runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis and to resolve any problems quickly. I started my career at Parafix as an apprentice engineer, where I spent three years getting to know the company. I then moved on to become a process engineer, where my main responsibilities were designing manufacturing processes and working closely with customers on their projects. More recently, I've taken on the role of Engineering Project Manager, working closely with the Operations Manager to plan improvements, manage various projects and ensure that all the equipment is running smoothly!

What studies have you done and why?
When asked what I wanted to do when I left school, my answer was always something involving maths, but I didn't want to sit at a desk all day, which quickly ruled out accountancy! Mechanical engineering seemed like the best option, as I knew it would appeal to my passion for maths as well as allowing me to get my hands dirty. I studied mechanical engineering while working at Parafix, which enabled me to apply my knowledge in the workplace by gaining a qualification.

The industrial sector is considered to be a male-dominated field. In this context, how did your integration go?
What are the strengths and difficulties you have encountered in your career?
On the first day of my mechanical engineering course, I quickly realised that it was a male-dominated environment, as I was the only woman in the room! For me, being a woman was never a problem; during my studies, I think it was positive, because it was obvious that I took more pride in my work than most of my male classmates! In the workplace, I've never encountered any difficulties related to being a woman, but my career has evolved with the company and many of my colleagues have seen this evolution. I'm aware that some women have difficulties with the pay gap and career development, but I'm lucky to have had support.

In your opinion, and based on your experience, have things changed for women in recent years and what difficulties remain (studies and companies)?
In recent years there have been positive changes to encourage women to take up positions in industry. The percentage of women in engineering roles in the UK today is 16.5 % and I believe that the higher this percentage rises, the more young women will be represented and will seek careers in the more technical roles. For me, it's also important to see women in management positions, although I think this is an area where there are still challenges to be overcome, as there are far fewer women than men in these roles. Another challenge for women is choosing to start a family. Taking a career break from the industry can have a negative impact on careers, and support during this period is not always adequate. The UK government is introducing childcare support schemes, enabling women to return to work earlier. These measures, along with a new vision of career breaks, are necessary to ensure the continued growth of women in industrial roles.

What advice would you give to women who want to work in a profession like yours, but also to employers looking for industrial profiles?

To women who want to get into jobs like mine: do your research! Women think that being an engineer means getting dirty changing oil or repairing machinery, which is not always the case. Yes, these jobs need to be done, but there are so many important tasks that need to be done that can benefit from different technical skills.

For employers, suitability for the job is more important than gender. Understanding whether a person is capable and has the right attitude for the job should be a priority when hiring. The other concern is usually the addition of a woman to a male-dominated team. In my experience, this has never been anything but positive and only increases productivity by raising standards.