Female Technology and Innovation GraduateFemale Technology and Innovation Graduate

Future Careers

Life as a female engineer at Virgin Media

Catriona Holland

Virgin Media Technology and Innovation Graduate

June 23, 2021

Hi, my name is Catriona Holland but I tend to go by Tina. I’m 24 and from Glasgow where I studied my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Glasgow. I moved down south in September 2018 to start my journey on the Virgin Media Technology and Innovation Graduate Scheme.

Over my two years on the graduate scheme, I completed four placements across different areas of the business. My first placement was within the Transmission and Data Design team and in the six months I spent there I produced several designs while getting to grips with the professional world, all with the support of my amazing team. I remember seeing my name on the design documents and feeling proud of my work and the new skills I was learning. I had the opportunity to go on a number of site visits during my first placement and was even able to try my hand at splicing fibre in the field.

I then moved into Entertainment and along with a previous T&I Graduate we piloted the Next Generation Encoder trial which looked at reducing the bandwidth used by our TV platform. I had no prior knowledge in this area of the business, so it was great to get hands on in the lab testing the kit. My team was split between the UK and Amsterdam which meant multiple trips to Amsterdam over the six months, which was an amazing experience. A highlight of this placement was attending the International Broadcasting Conference and being able to attend a session with YouTube discussing ethics when considering freedom of speech as well as the directors from the Lion King remake, looking at how the film was made.

When selecting my graduate scheme placements, I always looked for the opportunity to challenge myself and try something new. My placement in CPE Security Engineering meant trying my hand at ethical hack. This is the team that are responsible for testing and identifying faults in our Customer Premise Equipment which would make them vulnerable to attacks from hackers. During my time in this team, I managed to identify four major faults that had the potential to affect 15,000 devices if not picked up before launch.

My final placement was in the Liberty Global Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability team. The great thing about the T&I scheme is the ability to make your own placements in areas of interest even in teams at Liberty Global. The placement should have meant a move to Amsterdam but with the pandemic it was not possible. After three brilliant months in this role, I was offered the opportunity to become the Business Manager to the COO. I have now been in that role for just shy of a year working closely with senior leadership and getting exposure to the consumer side of the business.

A highlight during this role has been co-leading our Help for Home Learners project where we took old devices from our customers and employees and donated these to children to support with home learning during the pandemic. I also had the opportunity to support with Liberty Global’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy and our internal Consumer Zoom team which aims to improve Employee Wellbeing. I am very passionate about Diversity and Inclusion as well as sustainability so being part of these projects have been right up my street.

Now I am looking to make the move back to Engineering and lean on my wide range of experience to ensure my success in a new role.

In school I was always very strong when it came to mathematics, but I had never heard of Engineering until my teacher told me I would make a good one. This comment sparked my interest and I started researching with my grandfather, who was in the Automotive industry; we would share articles and attend Engineering lectures together. I hadn’t chosen to study Physics at higher and so in my final year of secondary school I had to pick this up to secure a place at University.

After university I was very unsure of the direction I wanted to take my career in, then I found myself applying for graduate schemes which sparked my interest. I really liked both the flexibility and broad range of placements the VM graduate scheme offered as I felt this would help me find out what direction I wanted to take my career. I felt I personally aligned with the Virgin Media culture as well as their purpose and values. A graduate or apprenticeship scheme is the perfect way to bridge the gap between education and your professional career, while giving you a strong support network to ensure your success.

The only way to build products and services for all is to have a workforce that represents all. Statistically speaking it has been proven that diverse teams are 15% more successful but right now only 12% of the UK engineering workforce is female. This is why days like International Women in Engineering Day are so important to shine a light on the amazing work being done by female as well as non-binary engineers. I am a STEM ambassador at Virgin Media, and I love the opportunity to speak at events with school children to encourage more girls into engineering by showing them a real-life example of one.

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