Meet Helen

Manufacturing Engineer and Robotics researcher

Helen left Headington in 2009, with A Levels in Chemistry, Physics and Maths and headed to Cardiff University where she studied for an MEng in Mechanical Engineering. During her time at university, Helen completed two summer internships, working at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in the Design Department and at Safran, the aircraft equipment manufacturer in the Airworthiness department. After graduating from university, Helen joined Rolls-Royce Plc where she worked for seven years in a number of departments, focusing on developing new products and manufacturing processes.

Whilst at Headington, Helen completed the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which included three months of volunteering as a cricket coach. This resulted in Helen taking formal qualifications and coaching at club, district and even managing junior county cricket teams and Helen believes that the skills she developed whilst doing this were central to her successful interview at Rolls-Royce for a position on their Engineering Leadership Graduate scheme. “I couldn’t have known at the time, but everything from managing people, negotiating, planning and dealing with disappointment set me up perfectly for the world of work.”

I may not always have been top of the class, but generally, I loved the process of learning.

During her time at Rolls-Royce plc, Helen raised awareness of engineering as a career for women, leading STEM outreach activities across the UK and she was also part of the founding group to set up the Gender Diversity Network in Rolls-Royce. In 2018, Helen was awarded the WeAreTheCity Rising Star Award, which recognises female talent across 20 industries.

In 2021, Helen started a PhD in Robotics and Autonomous systems at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a programme which provides opportunities to repurpose robots at the end of their primary life to help reduce electronic waste.

“Headington gave me a love of learning. I may not always have been top of the class, but generally, I loved the process of learning. There were no specific lessons on this, but in so many areas we were given permission to follow our interests and this thirst for knowledge led me to a career in research. More practically though, what I learnt in Maths, Chemistry and Art have been vital for my role as a manufacturing engineer.”

“Growing up, I was lucky to be surrounded by excellent role models, including the women in my own family and teachers at school. A woman who particularly stood out to me and who I would still like to meet, is Dame Steve Shirley. Her book Let It Go was inspiring to me when I first read it, and continues to inspire me to keep striving for what I want in a male dominated industry, whilst also caring for those in the world around me.”