Women In Engineering – Mariam Azad, Axians UK

Meet Mariam Azad, Professional Services Consultant from Axians UK. Mariam’s role involves delivering advanced networking and transformation solutions tailored to our customers’ needs. She analyses client requirements, designs customised solutions, oversees implementation, and optimises network performance.

Can you share your journey and what inspired you to pursue a career in the engineering industry?

My interest in STEM subjects combined with the tech industry’s boom, attracted me to this profession. Seeing some females in my social circle pursue similar paths also inspired me. As one of the only seven girls in a class of 70 in my engineering programme, it was certainly a brave decision, but one I have never regretted.

What are some of the barriers you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them?

Early in my career, being the only woman in male-dominated environments, I felt compelled to work harder to establish my credibility. I took this as a challenge, pursued niche qualifications to strengthen my credentials, and persisted despite the obstacles. In recent years, after starting a family, balancing work and family life has been challenging. For this, open communication with my managers has been helpful. They have always been supportive and accommodating and have been receptive to my requests for flexible working. My current role at Axians UK is a primarily work-from-home role which allows me to maximise the time spent with my family and have that much needed work-life balance.

How can we encourage more young girls to consider engineering as a career?

Awareness is the key – I feel from a young age, children are exposed to images of engineers depicted as individuals engaged in physically demanding, labour-intensive work, often wearing yellow hats. This presentation and subsequent perception needs to evolve because engineering encompasses a wide range of diverse sub-fields. Many of these fields do not require physical strength but rather intellectual prowess, an attribute equally possessed by women as well as men. So, this awareness should be taken seriously at school and college levels.

What changes would you like to see in the engineering industry to make it more inclusive for women?

Spreading awareness at a young age to attract women in this field and then offering flexible working patterns plus clear career progression paths to retain them.

How has mentorship played a role in your professional development?

I have recently been paired with a mentor and have greatly enjoyed our first conversations. It has been particularly helpful to connect with someone who has been on a similar journey of juggling work with young kids. We have talked about how I can stretch myself and spread my wings further, and we have put a plan in place with actionable steps to follow.

How has your business unit supported and empowered you to reach your full potential?

My business unit has always fostered a culture of openness, making me feel comfortable raising any concerns. They have provided flexibility to accommodate my family’s needs, allowing me to balance work and personal responsibilities effectively. Additionally, they have supported my professional development by enabling me to pursue necessary certifications and sending me to a coaching course.
All this has enabled me to successfully navigate various customer engagements while managing the tender years of my children’s upbringing over the past four years.

VINCI Energies UK & RoI launched an all-female programme called Elevate, can you tell us about your experience on the program?

I have participated in numerous technical and soft skills training sessions in the past, but this programme stands out as the first of its kind for me. In my experience, it adopts a highly individualised approach that places the person at the center of the career development process. It doesn’t just provide general tools, tips, and techniques that you should use to progress your career. Instead, Steph Tranter, our trainer, has helped each of us assess our unique situations, recognise our unique strengths and challenges, and provide tailored guidance to help us achieve our goals.

What advice would you give to women entering the engineering field today?

I would say the women entering the engineering field have the opportunity and the power to make a difference to the world, challenge gender roles, and excel in fields previously unexplored by women. As Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘The only way to predict the future is to create it.’ Embrace this opportunity to shape the future of engineering and inspire others along the way. When things get tough, remember to slow down the pace, when necessary, but don’t stop.