I’m the engineering manager of product test and engineering for Formulated Products Technology (FPT) in BP-Castrol. That means I manage a team of engineers who test newly developed fuels and lubricants before they go to market.
I’m based at Pangbourne which at first sight may seem quiet and leafy but that all changes when you enter our vehicle testing area, complete with 16 engine test beds, a rigs area and a chassis dyno. It is pretty high-tech!
I have a team of 21 engineers and technicians and my team works with the operations and test services teams to deliver the data that supports our products in the field and enables us to make performance claims on our oils.
The majority of the test cells, where our equipment simulates real-life conditions for engines and vehicles, are used for bespoke fuel economy testing for lubricants in partnership with leading automotive manufacturers for a variety of applications.
We also carry out fuels testing, some pure research work and a small amount of industry standard testing. We do develop tests for the whole range of lubricant applications from Marine to Formula1.
Although I run the engineering team I am not an engineer by training, I am a PhD chemist with 16 years’ experience in the lubricant and fuel business in product development and research roles across fuels and lubricants both for BP and for the additive companies.
I really enjoy the cross-functional nature of the lubricant business, and the interface between chemist and engineer in the development of performance lubricants and fuels is really exciting.
In my current role I feel that I have enough understanding of the engineering to be able to make a positive difference to the way in which we design and carry out engine testing to improve our delivery to the product development teams.
I spend a fair amount of my day managing resources; engineers, test cells and team finances. I ensure my team have the right equipment, sufficient technical support, and enough time to deliver the programme we have committed to, and I liaise with the product development team leaders to make sure we are working on the right engines with the right test methods to deliver the products of the future. I also need to ensure my team have enough time and resources to take advantage of additional training and development opportunities.
I have been in role for just over a year now and have had one engineer promoted within the team, two engineers move to more senior positions, two engineers take opportunity of secondments and one retire. This has given me the opportunity to employ new engineers and I spend a substantial amount of time on recruitment of the best engineering talent into our roles. We also employ agency staff and engineering students on temporary contracts which give us extra support when needed and much needed experience for them.
We like to have a mix of engineers who have academic qualifications as well as those who have learnt their trade “through the tools” and this gives us the best mix of knowledge and ability to be able to solve some of the tricky problems that we come across when running engines for test.
I also have a couple of Senior Engineers in my team who are working solely on Computer Aided Engineering (CAE).
They use software to model detailed lubricant behaviours to enable us to better simulate lubricant and fuel behaviour in the engine. This helps us to get detailed information on areas of the engine which are inaccessible to us by conventional means. Another part of my role is to explain this highly technical area to senior management so they understand what we are doing and how it adds value.
BP-Castrol are very committed to diversity and inspiring the next generation to take up STEM careers so I regularly visit schools or host them at our run shop, explaining what we do and why.
I feel very passionately that as a woman in a technical scientific and engineering role I’d like to inspire other women to take up what is a very fulfilling and enjoyable career – it’s not hard to come to work when you enjoy what you do and it is great to be paid to do something that you feel passionately about.