Day in the life: Hannah Eastwell – Product Development Engineer at Solarcentury
In the second of our “Nice to meet you” series featuring Solarcentury people, Hannah Eastwell, Product Development Engineer at Solarcentury discusses working as a woman in engineering.
Q: Describe a typical day as a Product Development Engineer at Solarcentury.
I spend most of my time at the moment looking into how we can make Sunstation cheaper. I’m doing this through multiple techniques including re-designing components, moving manufacture to Asia and also changing manufacturing methods completely for some components.
The Innovation team kicks off each day with a ‘scrum’, where we talk about what we did yesterday, what we’re focusing on that day and any challenges we’re facing. We find this task management method really effective because it means we can keep on track with deadlines and can more easily predict delays and find solutions faster. And it minimises stress.
As a team, we work on a wide variety of activities at any one time, such as certification testing, giving an installation training session and visiting suppliers off-site. This makes for an ever-changing, flexible approach to teamwork and means we are always learning, challenged and busy.
Q: What’s it like working as a female in the engineering industry given it is so male dominated?
Although I still regularly receive emails from suppliers addressed ‘dear sir’, my experience working as a female in engineering at Solarcentury is no different to what it would be at any other company.
I have worked in companies prior to Solarcentury where engineering was still very much viewed as a man’s world and the majority, or all, of the senior staff were men. Working at Solarcentury has been a breath of fresh air – I have a number of female colleagues working in various roles in the Engineering department, and there are also inspiring female role models in management.
Hopefully over time the engineering industry will see more females choosing this career path as the subject becomes better promoted in schools, and students feel less gender stereotyped.
Q: What attracted you to a career in engineering?
Engineering was simply what I enjoyed doing at school the most, because it doesn’t tie me to a desk all day and I like creating in a tangible sense – seeing things take physical form and how the resulting product can improve our lives or help us live more sustainably. The best career advice I’ve been given is “do what you love” – so that’s what I’m doing.
Q: What are you working on that gets you fired up?
Earlier this year, Solarcentury launched Sunstation in the UK and Holland. It’s a new solar system that is completely different to others because it sits in the roof rather than on it. Developing this new product has been my main focus since I joined the company in 2014.
I was responsible for designing the perimeter kit which connects the solar panels to the roofing tiles. This consists of seven different components which come together to form an excellent weather and fire barrier. These components needed to be easy to install, low cost and compatible with a range of roof tiles, all making for a complex design challenge.
Right now, I’m re-designing three of these components to be injection moulded, which is a cheaper manufacturing method using plastic, as opposed to the current sheet metal design. This is important because it brings down the cost of these components whilst also improving the aesthetics. Injection moulding is my ‘specialist’ area within the innovation team so I’ll keep reading and learning about this technology to ensure the team can benefit from its uses.
Q: What’s the coolest design/ product or project you’ve come across?
The coolest product I’ve come across is a re-useable notebook by a company called Rocketbook – it produces a book that can be wiped clean of ink when microwaved! The book is paired with an app so you can take photos of your work and upload photos directly to dropbox/ google drive/ etc for storage before wiping the book clean. I think this is a fantastic example of how we can minimise waste and reuse what we already have.
Q: What do you like doing away from work?
Hobbies have taken a bit of a back seat the last few months as I’ve been planning my wedding. I’ve just bought my wedding shoes which are a beautiful sparkly pair of Red or Dead heels designed by Wayne Hemingway. It is funny to think I helped design the Sunstation solar system on his roof and now I’m using his fabulous creation on my wedding day.
Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s not advice but a quote I really like – “creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, design is knowing which ones to keep”.
Read more from our day in the life series: