A career in engineering: a woman’s perspective

To mark International Women in Engineering Day Veolia offers some insight into one of the company’s female engineers.

Rocio Roldan Aguayo, CEng MIChemE – Veolia Process Engineer

Why/what made you choose a career in engineering?

At high school, I was good at STEM subjects and so it made sense to study a related degree. When thinking about what kind of career I wanted to pursue, I always knew I wanted to make a real world impact. I really like problem solving and applying what I’ve learnt to practical situations. It was actually one of my teachers in Madrid that suggested I study chemical engineering at university, because it would be an impactful career where I would be able to make a positive difference to society.

Why is it important in your opinion for there to be more women in engineering?

I actually had a very equal split of men and women when I studied chemical engineering at university – which was really indicative of the change that is happening.

Engineering is a creative field, focusing on problem solving and rising to challenges – it’s not more suited to any sex or gender. It’s such a varied discipline that can be applied in any industry or sector. The main driver in any career should be developing what you love. If you want to make a tangible difference – engineering could be for you.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

A lot of what I do is monitoring our emissions data and making sure we are operating our facilities at the highest possible efficiency. The more we can decarbonise our operations and help our customers to be more sustainable, the more impact we can have in preserving the planet’s resources.

Something I’m really enjoying at the moment is liaising with different  teams across Veolia and working with industry groups to understand the implications of new government legislation. I provide technical support to help translate the changes to emissions reporting or using hydrogen as a fuel source.

What is your favourite project you’ve worked on whilst at Veolia?

I really enjoyed working on the Leeds District Heating Network, which is a project where Veolia worked with Leeds Council to supply over 2,000 properties with low carbon heat and hot water from our Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility.

I worked with the construction team and measured how we could best transport the heat to people’s homes. I also did calculations on how our new heating network would impact the existing operations and supported troubleshooting during the commissioning phase. It was the first large project I worked on at Veolia and had everything I wanted from my career – problem solving, working with a wide range of people and applying my skills to a real world example that makes a difference to people and the planet.

What has been your career progression?

I’ve always worked as a process engineer – but that doesn’t mean I haven’t developed or taken on more responsibilities. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

I started with Veolia in January 2019 and I got my chemical engineering chartership in early 2021. Being part of a multidisciplinary team across the three different business units at Veolia (water, waste and energy) gives me so many opportunities to get involved in a vast array of projects. I’m now working on large scale facilities and national operations which means my work has real significance to lots of people. I’m lucky to work with Veolia’s top experts who share their knowledge and have a real interest in seeing their colleagues develop.

What would be your advice to anyone considering a career in engineering?

The opportunities to grow as an engineering professional are infinite. In the environmental industry that I work in, there are countless ideas, innovations and projects that will shape the way we live, like how to decarbonise countries or build more sustainable cities.

It might be a difficult subject to study, but engineering also offers continuous development and I realise on an almost daily basis that I know more today than I did yesterday!

How does your role at Veolia contribute to its purpose of ecological transformation?

My work at Veolia focuses on how to reduce emissions, where site improvements can be made and assessing new technologies which could make a big difference in the pursuit of Net Zero goals. What I’ve realised throughout my studies and career is that the little steps on the journey really matter. We aren’t going to achieve decarbonisation with one project, we need lots of improvements and developments to get there – and that’s where my team and I come in! We need everyone’s skills across the business to achieve our goal.

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