Find out about Orla Murphy, the 2015 IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year (YWE) award winner, and what she hopes to achieve as an engineering spokeswomen.
Orla works as an acoustic and audio engineer at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), where her small team in the infotainment department is tasked with improving the vehicles’ listening experience.
As well as having a keen interest in science, maths and engineering from a young age, Orla has always had a passion for music. Having grown up playing in orchestras, when it came to thinking about her future career she was torn between studying a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subject at university or focusing on becoming a professional musician.
“While I was looking into both avenues I came across a course where the first year was a third physics, a third maths and a third music,” she says. “It was all the things I liked and straight away I knew it was perfect for me!”
Although Orla loved STEM subjects she knew little about engineering itself and had no plans to move into a career in this industry. However, through her time at university and internships with BT and JLR, where she worked on audio-visual projects, she discovered that this was the perfect career for her and upon graduation joined JLR’s graduate scheme.
“I really don’t know how I got such a fun job – ultimately I listen to music in cars all day long,” she laughs. “For me this is a dream job where I get to combine my passions and do what I love everyday, but it is challenging as there’s lots of problems when you working on new systems as they’re becoming more complicated. We have to consider weight and we’re also working on other features such as navigation and park aid, so this small, specialised team is getting more and more responsibility.”
An overseas placement
One of Orla’s career highlights has been her placement in Portland, Oregon. Here she spent three months working in JLR’s Open Source Technology Centre on future projects, including a driver simulator.
“With three curved screens it provided a really immersive environment and I was working on how the accelerator and brake would feel for six different cars, in order to make the simulator as realistic as possible,” she explains. “I was so lucky to go and it was such a great experience,” she adds.
Having discovered the fun in engineering, Orla became keen to promote careers in the industry, break down the stigma related to engineering and give school pupils a better understanding of what it really entails. A STEM ambassador and a member of STEMnet, she’s taken part in many career evenings and local talks as well liaising with local teachers to give students exposure to people working within STEM roles.
She’s also represented JLR at several engineering recruitment events and university talks and even continued this work during her international placement.
“While in Portland I met with a group of students who were visiting the area from a remote island in Alaska and I talked to them about STEM careers, my work at JLR and answered their questions and concerns about entering the field of engineering,” she says.
A big TED fan
One of Orla’s big projects currently is working on a TEDx event, the first of its kind to be held in Leamington Spa. Having always been a fan of TED talks she’d been looking for events to attend when in Portland, but instead came across a gentleman in the UK looking for volunteers to help him plan an event of his own. Leaping at the opportunity, Orla got in touch and is now the event’s curator, helping select and prepare the speakers before they take to the stage.
“I got involved in TED because I am passionate about their ethos and concept, which is to inspire and engage the local community as well as the wider world via their website and to deliver quality talks about a variety of STEM topics that push boundaries and challenge attitudes. I would love to deliver a TED talk myself in future, reaching out to the wider community about the wonders and opportunities of engineering!”
Winning the IET YWE award
Orla is hugely excited to have won the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year award and believes this accolade will provide her with new opportunities.
“This opens so many doors. I’m meeting different people and broadening my network. I hope to be given more opportunities to talk to schools and perhaps to bigger audiences," she says. "Right now I’m working as a STEM ambassador and am involved with TED, but I want to do more and I plan to make the most of this opportunity.”