Q&A: Nina Sparks – site engineering manager, United Biscuits

Posted on 23 Jun 2015 by Jonny Williamson

To mark National Women in Engineering Day 2015, The Manufacturer speaks to Nina Sparks about her own career path and why engineering is a great career choice for women.

Why did you choose a career in engineering?

Nina Sparks, site engineering manager, United Biscuits.
Nina Sparks, site engineering manager, United Biscuits.

I didn’t really have a firm idea of what I wanted to do as a career while I at school, but I really enjoyed mathematics and physics. When I left, I chose a degree in engineering as I felt that it was a well-respected qualification that would open doors for future opportunities.

I was also spurred on by a teacher who once told me that girls couldn’t do physics – perhaps this was reverse psychology!

Why makes engineering such a great career choice?

Engineering has certainly provided me with challenges, variety and the chance to be involved with some very exciting projects over the years.

It is very satisfying to see projects that I have worked on from conception and design stage being installed in the factory, for example those now making products at high speed. Seeing large scale projects through to completion is an extremely rewarding experience.

What support has United Biscuits given you throughout your career?

Working for United Biscuits has given me the opportunity to progress through a variety of roles in operations, procurement, project engineering and site engineering management.

This has allowed me to develop not only my engineering skills, but also my general management skills through being part of a multifunctional leadership team.

Continuous development is important to United Biscuits, as well as on-the-job training. The business also gave me full support when I was working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer.

What can be done to encourage more young women into engineering?

A career in engineering is probably not naturally on the radar of most girls. There is a perception of engineering being predominantly male dominated and involving manual, spanner-wielding tasks.

The range of roles available to engineers is enormous and we need to do more to educate young women and make them aware of the options available.

More should be done in schools to encourage greater numbers of young women to take physics and get involved with problem-solving and design. In turn, this will help motivate students to get involved with engineering challenges and gain confidence in their ideas.

Do you think the message is being heard or does it need changing?

I don’t think the message is being heard loud enough which is why events such as the National Women in Engineering Day are so important.

It is essential that female engineering role models, teachers and engineering professional bodies communicate with young women to actively encourage them into the profession so that we create the best engineering teams for the future.