Dervla Braem combines her love of science and engineering with practical creativity in her role as a Design and Development Engineer at technology company Dyson.
Dervla, who studied Mechatronics (electronics and mechanical engineering) at Canterbury University, now designs the next generation of Dyson vacuum cleaners, air purifiers and other home appliances.
She moved from New Zealand to the UK to work for Dyson: “I wanted to work on engineering products that people interact with. I love the maths and science side of engineering but wanted to combine it with a more creative and collaborative job,” she explains. A typical day for Dervla involves designing and drawing new ideas and then heading to the lab where she works with motors, batteries and airflow technologies to bring her ideas to life.
Transferring ideas from drawings to the finished product is an exhaustive process, “The hardest part of the job is that it takes so many tweaks and different iterations of a product before it is right and something you have been working hard on may never become a finished product,” Dervla says. Despite this, being unafraid of failure is important in her role: “We are encouraged to think outside the box and design something unique to see what happens when we test it. Even if it’s not quite right, you end up learning something and pushing the project along.”
Dervla has always been interested in maths and science and her decision to pursue a career in engineering was a relatively easy one: “My Mum studied engineering – she was the only woman on her university course! Knowing she’d been an engineer made it an option for me.” This isn’t the case for everyone, Dervla explains: “There is a misconception that engineering is mostly a man’s career or that it’s about just about tools and getting dirty, but the truth is, it can be creative and collaborative.”
While the number of women in engineering roles has increased since Dervla’s Mum was at university, women are still significantly underrepresented in the field. Dervla is passionate about creating equal opportunities for women in engineering: “We need to create a culture where women are confident to share ideas, and everyone has a voice – even the quietest people. A women’s perspective is essential to engineering and welcomed at Dyson; if we want women to enjoy using our products, we need to have a women’s insight into what could appeal to this demographic and what is important in a product.”
Dervla is part of a Women in Engineering group at Dyson, an employee-led initiative common in engineering workplaces. “It is a supportive group of women engineers, designed to empower one another in the workplace. We run workshops and meetings and work on skills that we know, as a group, we would benefit from.”
Finally, Dervla shares some advice for overcoming imposter syndrome in male-dominated workplaces: “Finding a mentor who understands how you feel and has had similar experiences at work can be really beneficial for improving confidence. You need to remember that you are there for a reason and are capable of making a positive impact.”
Dyson is a gold sponsor in the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s Friends of the Foundation programme.