Isabelle Lewin works for MWH as a principal process engineer, having studied engineering in France. She is also keen to get more girls to pursue engineering careers.
What do you do as a principal process engineer?
I tend to oversee projects and provide technical direction, rather than being involved in all the details. My role encompasses technical review and participating at technical governance meetings, providing support to the younger engineers in the team at all stages of design.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently involved with the wastewater non-infrastructure programme for Thames Water. We are busy developing design solutions mainly for growth and quality projects, producing detailed scope for each project in line with robust technical governance.
What did you study?
I studied in France – I was born and raised there – and the education system is quite different. I attended an engineering school in Strasbourg, where I studied water and environmental engineering. Most process engineers in the UK have a background in chemical engineering, but my training was very focused on the water industry and more rounded as I covered aspects of mechanical, civil and process engineering.
How did that lead to your current role?
I came to the UK to carry out a placement at Anglian Water in its R&D department, then moved to the consultancy side, working for a company in South Wales. My next role was for a process contractor as a process and proposal engineer, and from there I moved to my current role at MWH.
What is the highlight of your career?
Undoubtedly my work on a flagship wastewater project in Brighton and Hove for Southern Water. I was involved in that project from its inception and onsite for two to three days every week, for a period of two years until the handover to the client.
It was a unique project, a complete new build, with some very interesting features because of its compact nature and its sensitivity to odour. It also blended into the countryside with a green roof which was the largest in Europe when it was first constructed – you can hardly notice the works from the coastal road.
What’s been your involvement in Women in Engineering Day?
I took part in a workshop organised by eight2O for Women in Engineering Day, where we discussed quotas and whether they should be used to make sure we have more women reaching higher levels in the industry. The vast majority of us were against them (myself included).
Recently I went to my daughter’s primary school to talk about engineering. I was quite surprised – and a little sad – to see that even at Year 6 age, the children who were interested in engineering were exclusively boys. I really think that we need to get girls enthused about careers in STEM very early in their education if we are to see more enter engineering.
However, I’ve never felt that there’s been a problem with working in engineering as a woman. Although one area we could improve is how we recruit and advertise roles.