Back Story: Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee, ‘I realised that I can achieve anything I put my mind to’
Image credit: Sarah Plater Photography
TV presenter Dr Shini Somara talks to chartered engineer Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee, who is a senior flight systems engineer at BAE Systems, where she has been for the last eight years. After the birth of her first child, she now works four days a week, leaving one day each week to run her small STEM business and continue her work as a STEM ambassador.
Shini Somara: How has a career in engineering helped you personally?
Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee: I didn’t really have a lot of confidence when I was younger. I was certainly a very shy kid. When I first started working, I was very quiet and kept a low profile and worked hard. It was only when I had my little boy, almost four years ago, that I came out of my shell.
Motherhood allowed me to gain the confidence I needed to do my job. I think this was due to the challenge of being a mum for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing and in the year I had for maternity leave, I realised that I can achieve anything I put my mind to, particularly because I love learning.
When I returned to work, I had an even greater motivation for my job. I was so happy to be back in my engineering role and went for all opportunities, saying yes to everything I was offered and put myself out there. My newfound confidence allowed me to speak up. It was a real turning point for me and as a result, everything started changing. I started my own business and became a STEM ambassador. I absolutely love doing outreach now, despite originally being so shy.
SS: What is the gender balance in your field of engineering?
KPR: When I went to university, there was certainly a gender disparity. I was one of only two women doing a Masters Degree in Aerospace Systems Engineering, but I could already see low numbers of women taking physics A-level in my school. At university, however, we often had to work in teams and collaborate. We all helped each other to revise for exams, which helped to bring down barriers. All of us on the course had the same goal to pass our degrees. For this reason, the gender disparity wasn’t such an issue for me.
When I got into industry, the teamwork approach continued. I had become accustomed to being one of few females in a team, so the gender imbalance didn’t faze me. BAE Systems has several women in my department, so I never felt on my own anyway. To help address the imbalance, more visible role models, education outreach, succession plans, and flexible working are some of the steps being taken to encourage more women to join BAE Systems.
SS: What does your small STEM business do?
KPR: Started during lockdown, I was inspired by people who often asked me what I did for a living. When I told people that I’m an engineer, the common response was that I didn’t look like an engineer. As a result, I designed a little pin badge that says, ‘This is what an engineer looks like’. Initially I decided to make 100 and donate part of the proceeds to The Women in Engineering Society. But to my surprise these 100 badges sold out within 48 hours! So, I made a few more and expanded my collection to include ‘This is what a mathematician looks like’, ‘This is what a scientist looks like’ and more. It’s a nice way of giving back and enabling others to show the diversity within their STEM careers.
SS: What have been the key steps in getting to this point in your career?
KPR: BAE Systems has been really supportive in my job, taking maternity leave and with my small business. The company has also been proud and supportive of the awards I have won over the last couple of years, too.
Working with a mentor on my chartership was also key. She helped me complete my application, which I had been putting off for a few years; I’m so grateful for that. Now I help others with the same process. I am now a junior assessor for the Royal Aeronautical Society and have also become a mentor for girls in STEM network. Not all girls have influences in their life that can show them that it’s possible to enter STEM careers. I think this part of my work is as important as the work I do in flight systems engineering.
Now that I am a mother, I am so much more aware of the organisations that exist to support STEM returners after a career break. These organisations are starting to become more visible and hopefully will help to mend the leaky pipelines of women in STEM careers.
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