Ellie Krayenbrink on placement
Do you enjoy solving problems? Are you creative, always coming up with new ideas and designing solutions? Then you’re already on the way to being an engineer.
“Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion about what an engineer actually is,” says Ellie Krayenbrink, an Engineer with Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations (JLR SVO). Ellie’s job is probably a million miles away from the image many people have of engineering.
“It is often seen as a ‘dirty’ and masculine profession that women aren’t supposed to get involved with,” says the 24-year-old. “It’s sad that this misconception of engineering exists. I have met a significant number of young people, especially girls, who don’t understand the profession and automatically dismiss it. The definition of an engineer, in my opinion, is someone who makes something happen. In other words there is no requirement to wear overalls or be able to weld! All that is needed is an open mind, the ability to solve problems, and a passion to be innovative. There so many sub categories of engineering, such as design engineer, electrical, project, mechanical, structural engineers, and so on.”
Ellie knew from an early age that engineering was the career for her, and studied both BSc (Hons) Agricultural Engineering and MSc Management of Mechanical Engineering at Harper Adams. She is now a Platform Engineer, a role that varies between companies, but they are usually highly skilled generalists, who understand many different roles and processes within a company, and can bring them together to ensure a finished product. “At JLR the word platform” says Ellie “is used to describe a set of vehicles that share a set of common designs, major components, or are in the same benchmark categories. My role is to assist with coordination and development of a collector’s edition JLR vehicle.”
This challenging position is miles away from the ‘overalls and spanners’ misconception that many girls associate with engineering: it’s all about problem solving, communications, being enthusiastic, proactive, and leading projects and teams. So how did Ellie get into this career?
“My parents always said I was born to be an engineer. From a young age I was always analysing how things would function. I have also always been extremely impatient with inefficiency! I was not the most traditional academic child at school. I thrived in lessons such as design and technology but was fairly average in English language. My father’s career crossed paths with mechanical engineers on a regular basis, so I understood early on what the profession entailed. The more I learnt about engineering I just knew it was what I wanted to do.
“During my childhood my father built a replica of an AC Cobra sports car from scratch and when I was a teenager we restored an early Land Rover Defender. Those two problem-solving activities really confirmed my desire to be an engineer. All current production vehicles have gone through vehicle development stages where problem-solving skills were hugely important. I like to compare the development stages to the time spent with my father trying to identify why something wasn’t functioning correctly on one of the vehicles we built.
“I also used to play a lot of team sports in secondary school, such as hockey, that helped me develop team skills. The ability to function within a team is essential for an engineer to conduct a successful project.
“I believe it is not always an engineer’s job to know the answer but instead their ability to define the problem and identify an appropriate solution; this will require other’s knowledge, no one person can know everything. There is no shame in not knowing the answer; the key is having the ability to find it out.”