It’s more than just fixing the internet

Aima Owen, Network Engineer at Openreach, graciously shared some time with us and shared her experience training and working for Openreach.

I joined Openreach as an Advanced Apprentice in September 2015. I’m a Network Engineer based in Peterborough, and I live nearby with my husband and our lovely dog Bastian. The apprenticeship will last for 30 months and when I finish I’ll have an NVQ and BTEC Level 3 in ICT and Telecommunications.

I studied Electronics and Communication Engineering at University and graduated in 2008. That was a time when the country was just going into a recession and it was quite difficult to get a job, and I had always found myself quite fascinated about the military life – so I made the decision to join the army.

I was recruited in Feb 2009 as part of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) Core as a Vehicle Mechanic Engineer. I spent 5 years in the army where I learned and developed various skills, such as communications, team work, leadership, perseverance, professionalism, organisational skills, et cetera.

The army was a great place for me to meet and interact with people from all over the world but after my tour of duty in Afghanistan I knew it was time to leave as I’d accomplished everything I’d set out achieve.

I wanted a long-term career and not just a job. After leaving the army so I looked at Openreach and decided it was a good company to apply to. When I got the call about the interview I was really excited and determined, and found the whole interview day really interesting. A few days later I received a call offering me the job.

We did a week long induction which got me up to speed with everything going on in the company. Straight away we were told about all the opportunities that are available to apprentices; we were buddied up with experienced engineers to learn about the life in the field and working on the network.

So what’s an average day like?

Well, I start work at 8am and finish at 4:30pm. Straight away in the morning I find out where the engineering action is and get stuck in. The job could be anything from climbing telephone poles to installing new network infrastructure and ensuring everything keeps running smoothly for our customers.

I want to progress in my career quickly, so I put a lot of work in outside of my role as an apprentice. I’m always looking at shadowing and leadership opportunities. Since joining the company that has been my aim, work hard and it will pay off.

I have recently been accepted into BT’s Future Leaders Program. This gives me the opportunity to hone and learn new leadership skills as well as build the confidence to take up leadership roles in the future.

Bridging the gap

We should encourage females to take up engineering by going into schools, showing the younger generation what being an engineer is like and giving them the know-how. We can challenge people’s perceptions, that we can do the same work as men, if not better than them, so there’s nothing to hold us back.

I’m a qualified engineer and can work in whatever field I want to – it’s a great skill to have. If we go out there and campaign, talk to schools, then we will see a real difference. Once we do that then we’ll be able to bridge the gap.

Being an engineer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get your hands dirty, it means being able to think outside the box and develop great problem solving skills.

I got the opportunity to go to a 6th form exhibition day recently and it was a good opener for kids as I was able to speak and draw from my own experiences. I was able to tell them about the differences between university and apprenticeships and what being an engineer is like. Having that guidance can make a real difference.

When I asked what the perception is of us, one of the girls said,

you just go into people’s houses and fix the internet

but there’s so much more to it than that, and so many more opportunities available.

In the next five years I would like to lead my own team and help the company go from strength to strength. I also plan to give more back and volunteer to get even more women into STEM careers.

You can read a previous interview with speaker Lisa Neale, Director, UK West, Business and Corporate Delivery of Openreach here.

We will be hosting a Women in TMT networking session next week at Broadband World Forum, which runs from 18-20th October at London’s ExCel Convention Centre. If you’re interested in attending for free, register your interest here, places are limited so register today.


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