What I do
I am a Senior Project Engineer working at Linbrooke Services Ltd in Sheffield. My role is mainly designing the Telecommunication, Data and VoIP networks for various projects within the Rail Industry. The work I perform involves surveying, designing, choosing the right equipment for the proposed design, and configuring the networks and devices within the network. In the meantime adhering to all the health and safety policies and procedures is one of the primary responsibilities within my job role too.
The journey into Project Engineering
I first entered into my Telecoms career through an internship via the Sheffield Hallam University after completing my postgraduate studies in Telecommunications and Networking at SHU. I joined Linbrooke Services as a Fibre Optic Test Results Analyst. When I first joined Linbrooke Services I was so thrilled that I was offered my first job in a Telecommunication company, which I have always dreamt of since choosing to pursue a career in Telecommunications. Not only that but also I was also told that there would be opportunities within the company to work as a Network Engineer as the analogue telecommunication systems were on the move towards IP based networking technologies. That was great news for me as I could see the opportunity in utilising the knowledge I have gained from my studies.
During my time as the Fibre Test Results Analyst, I got the opportunity to use my analytical skills to complete the day-to-day optical fibre cable test results using various analysis software, identify issues within the installed fibre cables, providing information such as the mileage to where the fault is within a given cable route and instructions to fix the issue and conduct final testing. Report writing was also one part of this job role, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fibre analysis works. Once the fibre works got slightly quieter, I then managed to get into the Project Engineering team to face new and exciting challenges within the same Rail Industry.
I first entered into the Project Engineering Team on a telecommunications project where the existing Private Branch Exchange system and circuits (BT ITS p27 concentrator system and BT Syntegra pv705 HMI units) were renewed into an IP based PBX system called Hipath V2 and the HMI terminals were replaced with Hipath V2 VAS-B HMI terminals.
After working on this PBX project, I then got the opportunity to work with an exciting project which involved both the old analogue telephony technology and the latest IP telephony technology. The scope was to implement a test bed network to replicate renewing the communication system which was all analog by retaining the existing analog PBX system(Meridian PBX) to interface with the latest IP based PBX system and front end units (Cisco Unified Communications Manager, IP Trade Turret Support Servers and IP Trade Turrets and Cisco IP phones). The device that was used for interfacing the analogue and IP system was Acculab ApplianX gateway.
At the time of taking this project, my knowledge on VoIP was limited to the experience I had gathered by completing the dissertation of my postgraduate course, which was also a VoIP network design and since then the technology had improved into various new things. I was very fortunate at the time, for getting involved with this project where I learnt about server visualisation, IP Turret Support Servers, Cisco Unified Communication Manager and incoming and outgoing call routing as per the system requirement by researching online, using user guides, conversations with the senior Engineers and then configuring the networks hands-on in the test network, which was then fully supported by the training courses arranged by the Linbrooke Services. It was also very satisfying that, when the incoming call timer issue was resolved by doing so many testings, researching, analysing call log results, and communicating with the technical product support teams. I have to say I learnt quite a lot by engaging in this project from the design, configuration and up to the testing stage.
Another similar project was then won by Linbrooke Services, to implement two similar VoIP networks in order to support Peterborough PSB and Tyneside IECC based on the proof of concept from the above test bed project, and I am pleased to say that I took the initiative in designing the two systems from the stage of surveying up to the design and configuration stages.
Motherwell North Telecoms project is also a project where CUCM and IP Trade Turrets are being used as the IP based concentrator system to provide the communication within the WSSC work stations, and I was confidently engaged in delivering the call routing configuration information and supporting in the configuration of the IP Trade turrets.
Currently, I am engaged with a project where a network design is required to accommodate, voice, video, data and management traffic using Cisco networking equipment and some other telecommunication within the network.
Therefore my career at Linbrooke Services is mainly on the network engineering aspects.
Why I chose Engineering?
I was born and raised in Sri Lanka up to my early twenties when I had already entered into higher education. A good education was highly appreciated, and my dream was to become a well-educated person in life as some of my other family members were. Since the early days, I had a keen interest in advanced mathematics. For me resolving mathematic problems and obtaining the answers was the best thing to do these days. Whenever I got issues, my mother came to my rescue as she was so keen on maths subjects too. This is the reason why I entered into the Physical science subjects when I did my ALs. When I got the opportunity to choose the field of Engineering I chose Telecommunications and the reason behind this would be my mother who was also a Telecoms Engineer who encouraged me and proved to me that I could do it. I have completed BEng (Hons) Telecommunication and Electronics and MSC in Networking Professional at Sheffield Hallam University as a result of dreaming of becoming that Engineer one day and here I am living my dream.
In the beginning, my biggest challenge has always been my self-doubt. This can be because you are the only woman in the room and especially when the industry you are working on is a male-dominated industry it is a normal feeling that any woman can have. This could make you think twice when sharing your ideas with the colleagues suspecting whether they would agree on it or not. After some time what I understood was that there is no difference in the way you think or do the job whether it is a male dominated industry or not, if you are doing the right thing it will be considered and appreciated. In fact, you are capable of things, than you think you are.
If there is anything that I consider as hard in the field of Engineering, it would be to engage in hard physical activities such as lifting things, moving heavy boxes etc. and apart from that, there is no difference in the Engineering career as a woman.
Another considerable challenge that I have come across during my career is being a mother to a young child who always needs your attention and care while on full-time employment as an engineer. I think it is indeed a challenge balancing the responsibilities between being a mother and holding a responsible Engineering position, working away from home and keeping up to date with the technology and the technical qualifications that need renewing every few years. This is one of the hardest things I have done in my life as you need to be physically and mentally fit to deal with the day to day work life challenges. Luckily in my case, Linbrooke Services has allowed me flexible working hours so that I can balance between both of these important roles. Despite all the challenges, I think it is well worth that I can do it without any regrets and I should be thankful to the people who are supporting this at Linbrooke Services throughout my career by allowing me the flexible working pattern and my husband for being very supportive with the housework.
Want to be an Engineer?
Engineering is a fascinating subject where it opens up the paths to various career opportunities in different types of Engineering starting from mechanical, Electrical, Electronics, Telecommunication, Networking, Manufacturing, software and many more. All you need is hard work and dedication on what you want to become when you first start studying towards becoming an Engineer or completing an apprenticeship or an internship. And that doesn’t stop there. You will still benefit from it throughout your career if you can add the above for your work ethics. Of course, you need the support from your colleagues and mainly the manager who will give you confidence and job satisfaction if you have that friendly supportive work environment and there is nothing to be scared of becoming an Engineer.
If you are a person, who enjoys completing a project or a task at work successfully while maintaining a good work-life balance you are a winner. The truth is to reach the career goals, it is more challenging to a woman than a man due to the responsibilities that are implied on her family life by nature like playing a significant role being a parent, but it is not impossible at all. When things work together well, doing an Engineering role will be more satisfying and rewarding in all aspects.