Engineering-related industries need to have a fresh think about how they sell themselves to young people
The ACR Journal interviewed Samantha Buckell, Personal Assistant to the Managing Director, Bitzer UK.
Name: Samantha Buckell
Role: Personal Assistant to the Managing Director – Bitzer UK Ltd
Where did you study?
Ousedale School in Newport Pagnell, where I completed my GCSEs.
What was your first job?
I count myself very lucky to have been one of the last school leavers to be accepted onto a Railway Training Scheme with Network Southeast, now London Midland.
This not only introduced me to the workplace, in a very male industry, but gave me the opportunity to experience lots of different placements across the network, enabling me to decide the career direction I wanted to follow. I felt I could opt for any job. However, rather than becoming a train driver, I chose an office role. What I learned there provided a strong foundation for the career I eventually pursued.
It was common in those days (around 1990), to leave school and get a job straight away. Today, things are obviously different, with a much higher percentage of people going to University.
Where do you work now?
Bitzer UK Ltd, based in Milton Keynes, as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director.
What attracted you to the industry?
I was attracted to the role initially, and I have learned a lot about the industry since I joined. I am very pleased to be part of the industry - people are friendly and positive, and keen to get on and work together to make a success of it.
What do you specialise in now?
The great thing about my job is that it is extremely varied, so no two days are ever the same. My main role and priority is Personal Assistant to Kevin Glass. Beyond that, I get involved with marketing, health and safety, co-ordinating the Bitzer UK training scheme, travel arrangements for the team and anything else that may come up in the day. I am also very pleased and excited to have recently become the Chair of the Steering Group for Women in RACHP, an initiative of the Institute of Refrigeration.
What excites/interests you about the industry?
I believe this is a great time to be joining the industry. Not only have people acknowledged that we need to do more to appeal to women, in order to attract them into the industry, but people are starting to work together to explore practical ways of doing this.
On the technical side, the innovations I see being developed around me are fascinating. To give one recent example: Bitzer UK recently worked in collaboration with a customer, G&O Refrigeration, to develop a new high efficiency refrigeration system for Milton Keynes Ice Rink. The project won the Project of the Year Award in the recent National ACR Heat & Pump awards. It was a proud moment for everyone involved.
Where do you see your career developing?
I find the Personal Assistant role at this level in a high quality company such as Bitzer UK rewarding and challenging. I have been here 11 months and thoroughly enjoy my work. I would like to continue to develop my skills and knowledge in the role for some time.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Be punctual, professional, presentable and polite. If you go by that mantra, it will do you proud.
What challenges does the industry face?
Again, I have to mention diversity. I believe it is entirely achievable to gain a more diverse workforce. Engineering-related industries, such as refrigeration and air conditioning, need to have a fresh think about how they ‘sell’ themselves to young people. We need to make much clearer the massive difference that refrigeration makes to the world, and how our quality of life – indeed civilisation – depends on it.
Another key area is obviously the environment, and the industry’s role in safeguarding the planet for future generations. This is very much on the industry’s agenda, I know, and I would like to see it made a priority. Improved design, best practice and constant innovation are the keys to maintaining momentum and building on the industry’s achievements in this vital field.
What are the benefits of being in your role?
Because I work in a small team, I can see the difference my contributions make to the company. Last November, I was lucky enough to travel to Head Office in Sindelfingen, Germany, to work with my colleagues there.
This not only gave me an insight to our global operations, but it was great to meet people I was working with long-distance. I was able to clarify any queries I had face-to-face, and it helped me feel part of the bigger picture.
At Bitzer in Germany we have our own art gallery, Schauwerk Sindelfingen, which consists of art and cultural artefacts, primarily from the 20th and 21st centuries, collected by our late owner and CEO Peter Schaufler and his wife Christiane Schaufler-Münch. It was an amazing experience and privilege to have a private tour around the current exhibition.
The Schaufler Foundation, established in 2005 by Peter Schaufler, will continue his life’s work, uniting entrepreneurship, vocational training and university teaching with research, science and art.
What industry associations and activities are you involved with, and what are the benefits?
As mentioned, I am involved with the IOR’s Women in RACHP initiative. We are planning a special training event to coincide with International Women in Engineering Day, on 23 June 2017. This will take the form of a training course for non-technical women working in the industry. The day will be split into two parts: The morning session will give delegates an opportunity to closely examine a refrigeration system and do some practical work; the afternoon session will focus on career development for women in engineering. We are very much in the planning stage, and will publicise it in the very near future.
What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the ACR industry?
I think it is a great industry to join with lots of opportunity. No area of work should be ignored or passed over as a result of being perceived as a ‘male’ industry. I have met some great people in the last 11 months on all levels, and thoroughly enjoy my job. I would encourage anyone with an interest to join the ACR industry.