Having taken an early interest in electronics and aeroplanes, Kris Harrison’s passion for engineering was fully ignited while doing her A-levels, when her physics teacher inspired her to study the subject at university. Since then, her career has taken many upward twists and turns, with her now having a major role engaging with students considering a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).
“If you listen to or read some media coverage, you will be aware that science and technology are gaining evermore profile – sometimes showcasing new advances in the way we live, and other times promising impending doom. Either way, due to the complex subject matter, consumers (and sometimes journalists) may not fully understand what they’re reading (or writing) about, resulting in inevitable misunderstanding.
“However, whichever way you look at it, science and technology are transforming the world around us! From electronic implants in people’s hands that enable them to pay for public transport, to satellite-based data informing farmers where to invest resources in their land to maximise crop yield, technology is moving at an astounding pace.
“And engineering is at the heart of all such developments! But it’s not just in what seem to be hi-tech areas where engineering skills are crucial; they are also used in the design of products that we use in our homes, offices, laboratories and schools every day.
“Today, there are so many ways into an exciting STEM-related career. For me, it was my interest in electronics and aeroplanes that sparked my journey into engineering. At an early age, I remember building circuits at home and visiting RAF museums, before later going on to study physics, chemistry and further maths for A-levels, and physics at university.
“My first job after graduating was an electronics engineer, combining my areas of interest, designing self-protection equipment for the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. Since then, my career has taken me in all sorts of directions, but never following an exact plan. In fact, my last two roles didn’t even exist when I joined the company!
“The speed at which many of us live our lives is considerably faster than previous generations, with our attention span falling all the time, due to the ever-increasing processing power that is often at our fingertips. Yet there is the promise of even faster and more powerful processing being delivered in the future if quantum computing – in which operations can be done much faster and using less energy than classical computers – is cracked by scientists and engineers. And who knows what such advancements could lead to and how vital they could be to our future?”
“Already, work is being undertaken by people in a variety of STEM fields which is fundamental to addressing challenges such as climate change, information security and resource shortages. This extends into creating future technologies including floating farms, brainwave passwords, smart cities, and something that is gaining increasing profile – the Internet of Things.
“By what does this all mean in terms of tomorrow’s engineers? A STEM-related career will give them the opportunity to solve tomorrow’s problems, be creative and work at the cutting-edge of technology. Change is happening right in front of our eyes, and young people have the opportunity to be part of that, and help make that change a positive thing.
“From my own experience, an engineering career is about variety, team working, technology, problem-solving, and making a difference. It’s not about being the cleverest person in the room or having superpowers. Succeeding in STEM, or in any other walk of life, is about making use of one’s own individual strengths. After all, that is what will help anyone become the best version of themselves.”