Real Voices: Emilie Weaving

It’s been a bit of a crazy ride.

How has your automotive career progressed?

It’s been a bit of a crazy ride. I’ve always been into bikes and grew up in a motorsport family. My grandad used to race in the 1950s and there’s even a corner named after him on the Isle of Man.

For my A-levels in 2010/2011, I did maths, further maths and physics. At the same time I was working at a Ducati dealership as a Trainee Technician and they offered me a full-time job when I finished. So instead of going to uni, I decided that that sounded far more exciting. So I worked full-time at the Ducati dealership, which meant I got I got to go out to Bologna to do some factory training, making me the first female qualified Mechanic in the UK.

I decided to get into motorsport from there. My dream has always been to be Valentino Rossi’s crew chief – my mum’s actually got a letter from when I was 10 years old, where I wrote that one day…

So I began working part-time at race weekends in 2012, which started my four seasons of working at the BSB championship. In the second season I worked full-time for the team and I was a mechanic for Maria Costello at the TT as well.

The crew chief for my race team was a calibration engineer at JCB, and he told me about their higher apprenticeship schemes, where you work at JCB four days a week and then study one day a week. I cobbled together my CV and sent it over and they offered me a position. For the first two years, I was doing a foundation degree in Integrated Engineering, after which I did my full bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering.

I was there for two years after I finished studying, as a Mechanical Development Engineer at the engine plant. I was responsible for everything from the task planning phases through to overseeing the installation of the engine, checking the data, and then doing the full data analysis and writing a technical report at the end of it. I then had a small nine-month stint working as a Mechanical Engineer at a motorcycle helmet manufacturer, before starting my current role at Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land.I had absolutely no plans of going into the defence industry, but I’m really enjoying it.

I’m currently working on developing the next generation of military vehicles for the British Army. My title is Survivability Engineer, working on heat survivability – anything that keeps the crew inside the vehicle safe – things like the armour systems, fire suppression, climate control… I’m really involved in every level from design, integration, development, testing, through to helping out with assembly. It’s really pushed me like completely out of my comfort zone.

What has your experience of being a woman in automotive been like?

It’s honestly been really positive. When I was Mechanic I was I was never made to feel any different to anyone else – I never got given different tasks based on being a woman. In racing I was the only female Mechanic in the paddock. It’s one of those things that I don’t really think about it because people don’t make me feel any different, which is exactly what I want.

What has been the pinch me moment of your career?

In 2018, I was the winner of the Midlands Engineering Apprentice of the Year from EEF (now Make UK). I went through to the national finals and I was named National Runner Up Engineering Apprentice of the Year, which was pretty awesome. I also won the best project certificate from the IMechE for my dissertation. And then last year I was a finalist of the Trial Blazer of the Year award through the Girls Day School Trust.

Is there anything that you wish you had known about the job when you started?

I think there’s a huge misconception in terms of people think that when you’re an engineer, you’re the person that comes and plugs in your smart meter or fixing your boiler. I think that’s a real problem to getting bright and keen people into engineering.

I do wish that I’d known how many different doors engineering could open. I wouldn’t have done anything differently, but it would have just given me a bit more confidence when I was studying at JCB to know actually this can open so many different types of doors that I never would have thought, which I guess is shown by going from diesel engines to motorcycle helmets and now military vehicles.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting into automotive?

I think it’s so important that people know how many different routes there are to life. And I really don’t personally think that just firing everyone into university is the way forward. I think people need to find their own way whatever that might be. I’m a huge advocate for apprenticeships, because at the end of the day, the companies are paying for your education at the same time. It’s just a win-win.

And there’s so many companies that are doing great schemes now. You just get so many more opportunities, I think, for example when I did my dissertation, because it was a work-based project it meant I got so much more out of it because it was what I was being paid to do at the same time.

Emilie’s words of wisdom

” I think people need to find their own way whatever that might be. I’m a huge advocate for apprenticeships, because at the end of the day, the companies are paying for your education at the same time.”