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Rebecca Shepherd: “Every experience you have shapes who you are, so don't be afraid to try something”

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Rebecca is Principal Mechanical Engineer, Sterile Device Technology (SDT) at Teva. Here the 10-year engineering veteran discusses her role, what people think about her choice of career, and the things she can’t do without.

My role can be quite full-on, but that tends to work best for me. I lead engineering activities across a range of projects. I'll work with external contractors or third party suppliers handling specifications and technical documentation for projects, as well as with our manufacturing sites to get things in place ready for production. At the same time I’ve ensuring full risk management documentation is in place. I'm often spinning a lot of plates.

I toyed with the idea of going into medicine, but I was always a very hands-on and logical person and played with Lego and Meccano from a young age. I did my work experience with the Royal Air Force (RAF) when I was about 15-years-old and got to work on aircraft. It went from there. I studied Aerospace Engineering and got a Masters at university and I've worked in engineering for 10 years now. I love it and wouldn't want to do anything else.

People are normally quite surprised that I'm an engineer. But they usually then start asking about how I got into it and what the role’s like – often when they’ve got children who are starting to think about careers. I was a STEM ambassador [volunteers who help encourage young people to progress further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics] for a couple of years, so I did a few events with schools. It's best to get children interested very young, even before the stage where they're choosing subjects to study.

There's a famous phrase that always sticks in my mind: 'never regret anything, because at one time it was exactly what you wanted'. Every experience you have, good or bad, shapes who you are, so don't be afraid to try something, or take that job, because it's influenced who you are today.

There are two things I can't do my job without: coffee and having a good dynamic in the office. Having a great team to work with always makes the job a lot more enjoyable and is important in engineering. I work with my direct team and interact with other departments here and across other sites. You have to be a team player.

To anyone who wants to do engineering or another STEM career my advice is don't worry about other peoples' opinions, because they're going to have them anyway. Just because you see things differently or approach things in another way doesn't mean you're wrong. Challenging the norm can often be a good way of improving the processes or making things more efficient and streamlined. In the 10 years I've been working in engineering I've learned not to take things personally at work, especially if it's a very intense time for a project or the company. That has really helped. I would say stick with the job, even when it's difficult, it's a very satisfying job if you've got the drive. Besides, a bad experience is always a lesson.

For the last couple of years I've been training in martial arts. I wanted to learn self-defence and it has also improved my fitness immensely, I really enjoy it and I've met some great people.

I'm a massive foodie… but more as a viewer. I love watching cookery programmes like MasterChef or The Great British Bake Off. I can binge on them. I'm all about the food and love watching people make it. I'll have a go at cooking, mostly at the weekend when I've got a bit more time, but watching others cooking is my real guilty pleasure.

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