My name is Milena Zagulak and I’m a 3rd Year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Aberdeen and I joined Engineering Group in Marine Scotland Science (MSS) in July 2019 for a 12-week placement advertised on the CareerWISE placement Scheme.

I chose to do a summer placement as I wanted to explore possible options after graduation, and I applied for the position of Assistant Mechanical Design Engineer because was interested in subsea design. Before my placement I wasn’t certain I wanted to build a career within engineering, however, I can now say with confidence, I have found my path to becoming a professional engineer.

Between finishing my last set of exams and joining the Engineering Group, I was very nervous about starting my placement, as subsea engineering is still one of the most male-dominated fields. I knew ahead of time that there was not a single female engineer within the team. I was also concerned that I would not be given any important projects or have full creative control over my designs. This was partially because, at the time, I had just completed my 2nd Year of studies. Furthermore, I knew from the experience of friends that interning before the final year is not common and that most employers take on interns to do smaller, less significant projects.

In my case, I couldn’t have not been more wrong.

The engineering team was a delight to work, as they treated like an integral part of the group and not only an intern but an engineer, from day one. No two days were the same as the engineering group works with all science departments on the equipment used at sea and my team always made sure I was busy with meaningful work. What is more, my line manager was an excellent mentor, who taught me a lot about marine operations and subsea engineering – knowledge which could only be learned by experience.

During my time at MSS, I was entrusted with many important projects, such as a deep-water DNA Sampler, which will be taking samples at 2500m sea depth in the Rockall Trough or a solely designed TV Camera frame, which will be used to observe fish inside a net to quickly identify species in it.

This placement definitely helped me to develop further both my research and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) skills. Both of these are critical for a Design Engineer to possess. Also due to the expertise of the in-house engineering workshop, I was able to learn about some of the manufacturing and production processes used within the industry, especially for precise-engineered scientific equipment.

Being able to apply my academic knowledge in such a welcoming workplace has ensured I want to continue becoming an engineer and beating the path for other females in subsea and marine engineering.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunities Marine Scotland gave me and I’m excited to say I have been offered to come back next summer.”

Join us on October 3rd at 5pm in Aberdeen to hear from Milena in person. She will be speaking at our The Future is STEM event for more information and to register for free click here.