Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Packaging Automation welcomes applications from all but we are particularly keen to encourage women to consider a career in engineering. Often perceived as a male dominated role, we took time recently to interview Jo Porter, Projects Manager at Packaging Automation, about her experiences.
What or who inspired you to embark on a career in engineering?
My very first job was picking tomatoes for Flavourfresh Ltd at the age of 13. From there, prior to joining #TeamPA in 2017, I worked at Len Wright Salads, and for fourteen years at a site now operated by Agrial Fresh (when the company was Mac-Pac, Hazeldene, and then MyFresh as part of WJFG); it seems I have spent the majority of my career working for Packaging Automation customers!
To be honest, I’m not sure I made a conscious decision to go into engineering but perhaps the scene was set when I started with LWS, as this was my first hands on interaction with food packaging machinery. Either way I do not regret my career choices, I did initially want to join the RAF but for one reason or another that just wasn’t meant to be.
What are some of the highlights or your career to date?
When I look back on my career to date there are a number of highlights, including the use of a CapEx proposal that I wrote when at MyFresh which became the benchmark for others within the WJFG. I am also very proud of the fact that my first solo project as PM for the same company was an extension to the high care area, my introduction to construction and civil engineering, and the installation of two additional production lines to increase capacity.
This project involved me developing the project plan, and submitting the ‘benchmark’ proposal as a request for £1.7m capital expenditure.
Are there particular challenges for women in engineering?
I have never allowed any one to treat me any differently to my male counterparts and I think that has been key to my success. It still raises a smile when I attend meetings and people assume my male colleagues will be taking the lead – I guess having the name Jo does not help!
I do think it’s important to get the right qualifications for your chosen career path, this certainly helps with being taken seriously and respected by your peers.
What would you say to any young people and especially girls who are thinking about career options?
Engineering is a large discipline which applies scientific theories, mathematical methods, and empirical evidence to design, create, and analyse technological solutions, as well as the hands on side of the industry. My advice to young women considering a career in engineering is to choose to train and work in a sector that is sustainable rather than transient, like food and pharma.
A well-structured and supported engineering apprenticeship gives you a chance to move around departments, and find the best fit for you.