International Women in Engineering Day – Heather Nickalls, M0HMO

Heather [third from the right] with some of her engineering colleagues.

Heather Nickalls, M0HMO shares her story about a career in engineering and links to amateur radio…

“‘Come on in ladies, the water is warm’. I can’t remember which job advert I saw this in, way back in the early ‘90s when I was just out of university and looking for my first job. I don’t think I really believed it, but at least some employers were trying to get more women into engineering!

A year after starting work I was sent to the USA on business and the engineering department over there had about 30% women – whereas back home it was more like 4%. Looking back on this statistic, it dawns on me that software could well be the first engineering discipline to accept women as equals in the global workforce.

Fast forward to 2016 and I decided to retire. I had been with five engineering companies where I had done such things as writing assembler code for embedded automotive applications, travelling all over the Far East, Europe and the Americas as a Field Applications Engineer supporting audio processors, automotive microprocessors and LTE/4G cellular products, as well as product development in the cellular and digital TV markets.

I was lucky to discover amateur radio early on in my retirement. It is a wonderful playground for engineers and whatever flavour(s) of engineering you might want to get involved with, be it software, electronics, mechanical, RF, digital … they are all present in amateur radio and there is always someone to learn from, always someone there to help you out in whatever endeavour you may be involved.

As the pandemic drew to a close, I was persuaded to come out of retirement and join a small Midlands company specialising in power converters. What a different world we are now living in! There are women in our electronics team, in our software team, in our engineering test team, in the systems team. All the age groups are represented, and all the different grades. I think for the first time I can say that I work for a company that is truly an equal opportunity employer.”