International Women in Engineering Day – Hilary Sibley

29th June, 2020

We spoke to Hilary Sibley, pictured above with her daughters who are fellow engineers, about her engineering experience for INWED 2020. Hilary is the Chief Piping Engineer for ODE.

How did you enter the engineering industry?

When I first left university, I wanted to work offshore as a driller. At this time, it was very uncommon for women to work offshore. I had lots of interviews set – as my name can be unisex, they just assumed I was male. When calling to confirm dates for interview, they would just say ‘you’re female – we don’t take women!’. I found that no matter how good my qualifications were, they were overshadowed by the fact I was female.

I was finally offered a job in an engineering design consultancy. To them, all that mattered was that I could do the work and the matter of my gender was not relevant; I was just an engineer.

What opportunities have you had through your work at ODE?

I joined ODE as a project engineer in the London office when the company was quite small. Having worked previously for large multinational companies on sizeable jobs over long timescales, it was an enjoyable step in a different direction. ODE worked on smaller jobs to meet much tighter deadlines. It is challenging working in a smaller team; there is nowhere to hide but your actions make more of a difference. It is also rewarding to see the end result of a project.

Since joining ODE, I have worked across several different areas including Oil and Gas both onshore and offshore, renewables on offshore wind farms, and in decommissioning. This has provided challenges as you are constantly learning and building experience. My roles within ODE have changed and developed along with the requirements of the work.

How has the engineering industry developed during your career and how would you like the industry to evolve in the future?

I am pleased to see an increase in the number of women in engineering in the industry. When I studied Offshore Engineering at RGU in Aberdeen, I was the only girl on the entire course. However, despite the increase in women in engineering, schools still do not do enough to promote engineering to girls. My daughters, both with engineering degrees, went to different all-girls schools and, although several students took sciences, they were not encouraged to pursue engineering. My daughters are both the only ones in their years to go on to study engineering. Schools should be doing more to address this and promote engineering to all students.