In the latest in our Women in ACR Series, we meet Suzie Barron, Senior Process Engineer at A-Gas UK.
Tell us about your background?
Before joining A-Gas
I worked in the chemical and offshore industries. It could be said that I was born to be an engineer as I have always enjoyed building and fixing things. When I first graduated I was working for a company that made burners for the glass industry. I then worked on improving power station efficiency but this was mostly office based – and working in an office was not why I became an engineer. I moved on to the oil and gas industry. However, I joined A-Gas last year when the wheels came off this industry. What I do now is definitely my ideal job.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BEng (Hons) in Chemical Engineering combined with an MPhil related to Mathematical Modelling. I am a member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer.
What does your job involve?
We have a flexible engineering team at A-Gas tackling a wide range of jobs. I don’t have what you would call a typical day; work can involve anything from designing new systems, finding and buying the parts we need, helping to build new plant, commissioning, assisting with maintenance work and supporting the junior engineers. Currently working with me is a graduate and a student engineer. I troubleshoot on existing equipment too and try to keep in touch with colleagues who are using what we design and build to get their feedback on the system.
What jobs have you been working on recently?
I designed and built a new-generation filling station in Bristol – that’s the equipment used at A-Gas for filling the cylinders with gas. I am currently working on projects to recycle recovered refrigerant. We are making new systems to clean up the refrigerant that comes back to us for ready for re-use – we remove contaminants and separate components. With the latest F-Gas Regulations, recycling refrigerants is growing in importance and will continue to do so.
What do you like about your job?
I like the variety of work that comes my way at A-Gas. The physical side is part of the fun and I enjoy the build and maintenance aspect. My training at A-Gas has covered many things, from my F-Gas City & Guilds qualification, fitting steel tubes, through to working on the software that controls the systems and driving forklift trucks.
I like sitting down with a blank piece of paper and sketching something out with a pencil. You can start off with something really simple, work out the detail, build it and then make it operational. Our new filling station at A-Gas was a project very much like that. There’s a lot of satisfaction in working in a team, ending up with something that works well and being told by the guys using it that they are happy with what you have delivered.
Do you have time for a job and a family?
Yes, I am married to Mark. We have two children, Lorna (12) and Jamie (8). Working and looking after a family is challenging but I’ve always looked to get the best of both worlds. We have help at home with the domestic chores as I’d rather spend my time with the children than gardening or cleaning.
How do we encourage more women to take up a career in refrigeration?
When I was at university there were more females studying chemical engineering than any other type of engineering and I chose it because of the variety it offers. I think the issue of attracting more women into engineering and keeping them there needs to be addressed in schools. When I was choosing my A-Levels most girls who liked sciences ended up studying biology rather than physics which makes it more difficult to get into engineering later in life. I enjoy what I do because of the variety it offers and I get quite a buzz out of it.
It is a rewarding and enjoyable career for a woman in the refrigeration industry. I believe that there’s nothing to stop a woman being successful in our industry. In my various roles in engineering I’ve come across nothing that I could not do because of my gender. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always had positive working relationships. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are just concerned about whether you can do the job.
What’s your next career move?
I’ve never been focused purely on moving into management. I would rather concentrate on having a varied technical role and a job that challenges me. I definitely have this at A-Gas. I believe that as long as you are doing a job that you enjoy – and one that pays reasonably well – that’s the important thing.