Speaker Spotlight: An interview with Catherine Cobb
What is your current role?'
Traffic Signals Design Assistant Engineer ' My main role is to design the traffic signals in the Sheffield area, Amey have a 25-year contract with Sheffield City Council to upgrade and maintain the traffic signals.'As I have only been in traffic signals for a couple of years, there is still loads to learn.'It's the kind of industry that technology and its methods never stop evolving.'I follow the design from the very beginning with the first site visit to the very end whereby I go out and commission the signals for use, knowing that I have made the roads safer for people to use.
What inspires you?'
Hmm, that's a toughie!' I would say the young inspire me, as I have just become a STEM ambassador for Amey I am in the process of visiting schools and colleges around my local area to encourage the younger generation into the engineering field.' The reaction that I get when I walk in on crutches is priceless! The last event I attended was on behalf of the girl guides, and as I walked into the room full of' 7 to 9-years old'was..."you're an engineer!"'The children were amazing, they hung on every word I said. Yes, they saw that I was disabled but that want the main focus on the night.
People say that I'm their inspiration, but to be honest that inspires me to be who I am and if I can inspire just one person a day then what I do is worthwhile. Just to hear someone say 'if she can do it, so can I' means more to me than anything.
Who is your biggest career influence?'
It might be clich' but my dad! My dad was a blacksmith when he was younger, he took me under his wing when I was a child and taught me how to manipulate metal.'I was fascinated by how you could change the properties of a metal just by the different methods of cooling'so cool!
Next to my dad, I'd say George Stephenson. I went to school in what was his family home, it was called Tapton House Secondary School back in the 1980's, and the history of the place was amazing.' Knowing that he himself had walked those halls and corridors where he created the first steam locomotion engine that was probably made on that very site filled me with awe.'
Finally, I would say my big sister Susie, as she took over my upbringing when I lost my leg at the age of 7.'She taught me that I was just like any other kid in the school, to work hard and to accept others input of me and show people that I could do anything I put my mind to, even though I was disabled.' She gave me strength to believe in myself.'
What project or piece of work are you most proud of?
Well, as I've been described as 'a piece of work' myself, I'd have to say me!'I have been working on myself for many years, as losing'a limb can be so demoralising and life choices can often feel pointless.'I've had so much rejection throughout my career, from being told 'you haven't got nice legs' to 'how can you carry tea?' but proving people wrong and determination won the day!
I am so proud that I could share my story with others as a disability ambassador for Amey.'Working for Amey didn't just kick start my career again, it also kicks started my life again too.'
As for projects that I have worked on,'there have been many, but knowing I have created a safe environment for people to live and work is all the rewards I need to make myself'proud.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Wow! I think if anything'I would tell myself to never give up at the first hurdle.' You see, a few years ago my doctor told me I was too ill to work anymore and that I had to go on benefits, at that time in my life it happened to be the only option for me.'Overtime I decided to go back to work and it was the best thing I ever did. In hindsight, I should have stuck it out and carried on with my career in engineering all those years ago.
The other thing I would tell myself would be to grow a thick skin! Women in the engineering sector has always been a tough, as you are constantly battling for recognition and advancement, but you can achieve it with hard work and determination'and if like me,'being stubborn really helps!'
What are you looking forward to most at London Build?'
I always look forward to meeting new people, making new friends and networking with others in the engineering field.'
I'm looking forward to sharing my story on the big stage to hopefully inspire young and old to give engineering a go'it really is an amazing industry!
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