Find out more about this year’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year: what military life is really like, her past 18 months deployed in Libyan waters and Afghanistan, her plans post-Army and what she hopes to achieve as an engineering ambassador.
Captain Charlotte Joyce, Aircraft Engineering Officer, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, is a woman to be reckoned with. Full of passion for both the Army and engineering, we can’t think of a better ambassador for our industry.
This December Charlotte was presented the IET 2011 Young Woman Engineer of the Year award, recognised for her work in supplying airworthy battle winning helicopters on worldwide operations and leading soldiers in dangerous and challenging environments. Revelling in the work, the last 18 months have seen her deal with a variety of engineering challenges from restoring airworthiness to helicopters damaged in battle in Afghanistan to investigating saline corrosion whilst embarked at sea off the coast of Libya.
It was for this work that Charlotte was prompted to apply for the award.
“My boss actually put me forward,” says Charlotte. “Information on the award went to the headquarters of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) and my boss forwarded me an email and told me to fill out the form,” she laughs. “(The email) came down through a number of people, and as I’d had a very busy 18 months it was really nice to get recognition for it.”
Joining the Army
Charlotte’s love of both engineering and the Armed Forces shone from a young age. She was always interested in maths and science at school and at 15 years old she made the decision she wanted to join the Army, and so went to a sixth form Army college for her A levels. There she continued to focus on STEM subjects, was sponsored to read engineering at university and straight out of graduation was commissioned, and so working life began.
Life as an engineer in the Armed Forces
The work has been tough, but Charlotte has loved the challenges that have come with being an engineer in the Army. Her five months in Afghanistan entailed constant work, seven days a week, however during other deployments or when working on the base Charlotte gets involved – and leads – many adventurous activities. She’s taken her unit scuba diving off the coast of Cyprus, and regularly organises hill walking expeditions and orienteering adventures.
“The social side is alive and well,” she says. “At the regiment I’ll organise dinner nights, which is fun but hard work. We may have a run ashore or have drinks on the flight deck of HMS Ocean. Sundowners? It’s like being on a cruise,” she laughs. “But that’s always after at least two weeks of hard slog on deployment,” she adds seriously.
Joining ‘Civvie Street’
Charlotte’s award has come at the perfect time for her, as she is now at a crossroads in her career. She is due out of the Army in early 2012 and feels that winning this award will open up a number of different opportunities for her. She’s had an amazing time in the Army but feels its now the time to do something new as an engineer, working on “Civvie Street” as she calls it. She does plan to keep her ties with the Army by joining the Territorial Army (TA) so she’ll still have the opportunity to deploy.
“I’ve been so lucky with the experiences I’ve had in the Army, especially in the last 18 months, I’ve done the best two jobs you could ever do,” she enthuses. “But I’m really looking forward to doing something completely different, giving myself a new challenge. I know I can work in dangerous environments and deal with lots of pressure, and I’m hoping I can transfer those skills somewhere else.”
As well as a big career change ahead of her, Charlotte is also planning a lifestyle change too. An avid follower of low impact living initiatives, she is hoping to move towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Her passion for this began back at university when she got involved in charity work for Bristol Volunteers for Development Abroad. First she took part in a two month deployment to Rwanda working with rural women’s groups in remote locations to drive income generating initiatives and improve their family diet through the building of a rabbit farm. She then led the team to Uganda to help implement basic water treatment technology, fuel-efficient stoves and sanitation education. More recently she has completed livestock keeping and butchery courses.
“Myself and my partner have a smallholding and I’d really like to be self-sufficient,” she says. “When I leave next year I’m going to go and keep chickens, pigs and bees and try to really put my engineering slant on it as well – so looking at harvesting rain water etc, and try to make the best use of whatever resources we’ve got.”
Gaining professional registration
Focusing on her new options, Charlotte believes becoming professionally registered will hold her in good steed as she begins the next chapter of her career, and so is planning to achieve Chartered Engineer (CEng) status before leaving the Army.
“We actually have a fast track route to registration within REME and that’s something I’m doing at the moment,” she says. “I think it’s the right time to apply for CEng as it then puts me at the appropriate level when I’m looking for jobs.”
Becoming an engineering ambassador
As well as having a great number of networking opportunities ahead of her thanks to the award, Charlotte is looking forward to her work as an engineering ambassador and would really like the opportunity to go into schools and show them a completely different side to the industry.
“I really want to show that engineering isn’t say sitting behind a desk with plans, or necessarily being on a building site – there’s so much more that you can do! I think I really need to get out there and show how wide an industry it is – one that needs all kinds of people,” she says.