Lorena is an engineer at Cummins, an international engine manufacturing and power-generation company, where she improves engine fuel efficiency.
Name: Lorena Garcia Fernandez
Job title: Product Engineer
Company: Cummins Turbo Technologies
School subjects: physics, maths, biology, chemistry, design, technology
Qualifications: BEng Mechanical Engineering (1st), The Charles III University of Madrid
MSc Industrial Engineering: Machines and Structures (Distinction), The Charles III University of Madrid
Tell us about your job...
One of the things that Cummins does is design and manufacture engines and my job involves increasing the fuel efficiency of our customer engines so that they can run for longer using less fuel.
Through this work I am able to contribute a great deal to improving the level of emissions in the commercial vehicle market, making our environment cleaner.
How does engineering affect people’s lives and the world around us?
When you think about it, engineering is involved in every aspect of our lives, from the Turbochargers we make that go into the engines of the cars we drive, to our mobile phones or the electricity we use at home. It is all about innovating and making a difference and by choosing an engineering career you have the chance to do that. You can provide a product to a customer that will help make their life better, or use your knowledge to help others improve their everyday lives.
What do you like most about engineering or your job?
Engineering is exciting! There are always new challenges that help you learn and improve your knowledge in different engineering disciplines. A job in engineering is very dynamic as well: no two days are ever the same which makes the job really enjoyable.
It’s also a strongly team based activity, so you interact with a lot of other people every day and develop your interpersonal skills.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
At school, when I had to choose which career path I wanted to follow, I tried to imagine what I would like to be doing for many, many years to come, as my professional life would be around 40 years long! I wanted to do something that wasn’t repetitive, that was interesting and always developing and changing.
Engineering meets all of these points and more. It gives you the chance to create and to improve the world using your knowledge, creativity and problem solving capacity. It is a very rewarding career: boredom is just not an option.
There are a number of different routes you can take into a career in engineering. What route did you take and why?
I did my A-levels and went straight to university to study a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degree in Mechanical Engineering. I chose this three year course instead of a four year Master of Engineering (MEng) course because I wanted to achieve a qualification and then decide if I wanted to carry on studying. I would also be able to start getting some work experience as a qualified engineer before carrying on with the Masters degree, which I did.
I decided to go straight into university (instead of an apprenticeship) because it was important for me to know the theory first so I could then apply it to an infinite number of situations. It’s very rare that the theory you study in university is directly used in the workplace but if you have a good understanding of the theoretical laws of physics and maths you can apply them successfully in any industry.
How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now and did you enjoy it?
It is important to study maths and science in school as it provides you with the foundation knowledge that you then build on during your degree. I used to love physics but I did struggle with maths throughout my A-levels which made me wonder if I had picked the right course many times.
However this was due to the fact that maths at school is very theoretical and sometimes it was difficult for me to see the “real-life” application of what I was studying. This changes dramatically once you start an engineering degree. As you progress through your degree more focus is put on applying those maths and physics theories to real-life problems.
What personal qualities do you think are important for being an engineer?
As an engineer you need to be consistent. Consistency is key as problem-solving activities can take a long time.
There are fewer women working in engineering than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
Engineering is about innovating and solving problems. If you like it and put your mind to it, anything is possible. Women and men are different and offer different perspectives when approaching problems, but this is the same with different cultures. All people look at things differently depending on their education, their personal backgrounds and life experiences as well. This is not a bad thing - on the contrary, it adds value because engineering is all about working in teams and using each other’s knowledge to achieve the optimum solution to a problem.
I would recommend to do part of your studies or work experience abroad if the chance presents itself. I studied my Masters degree in Italy and this gave me the perspective to understand that everyone approaches things in different ways and that all of them are equally valid - in fact they are necessary or there would be no innovation.
The Italian approach was different from what I was used to but the same thing happens between male or female and young or experienced engineers. All that knowledge is necessary in engineering to translate scientific knowledge into technological innovation.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I love reading fiction books and playing racket sports. I have recently taken up squash and I am training to improve my technique. I love it because it’s really good fun!
If you could go back in time and be the inventor of any product, what would you choose?
The bed! Many problems are actually solved while we sleep. There are problem solving techniques that talk about removing yourself from the problem and looking at it from that perspective. And that is what we do when we sleep - we detach ourselves from it and look at it again the next day, and to date this has never failed me.
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