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Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering - An interview with Stacey Thomas

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering

Meet Stacey Thomas, Aerospace Business Development Manager at Fine Tubes

Stacey Thomas has built up a successful sales career, stemming initially from a business studies degree. Having spent seven years at Fine Tubes, part of AMETEK Specialty Metal Products (SMP), she relishes the chance to speak with customers, build relationships and see for herself the difference that the precision metal tubing products make on critical aerospace projects.

Stacey discusses her role at Fine Tubes, her thoughts on the future of the aviation industry and why a mixture of early education, social media interaction and engaging activities like site visits can help encourage more women into engineering and fuel a life-long passion for all things STEM. She also explains why she can never stay silent for long when she is on an aircraft with friends or family!

Q. What made you follow a career path in the engineering sector and at Fine Tubes?

I studied business studies at university, so working in a sales role has been a natural fit for me. I’m very thankful for where I am today. I’ve been at Fine Tubes for seven years now and I can honestly say I love my job – it’s so versatile and it’s an industry where you really do learn something new every single day.

It’s always exciting when a conversation about one product may lead onto a completely different discussion about another way that we can help a customer from an AMETEK SMP perspective – be that tube, strip or powder.

We’ve developed a diverse portfolio of aerospace materials and products that we offer from AMETEK SMP and I enjoy finding solutions for our customers by working with our teams across all our business units.

Q. What do you like best about your role at Fine Tubes?

My favourite part of my role is interacting with customers and building strong long term relationships. I really enjoy my customer visits. I’m a ‘people person’ and I always try to understand and empathise with the situation my customer finds themselves in and try my hardest to find a way to best support their needs.

I also love walking shop floors with customers and seeing for myself how they use our precision tubes in the products they supply. I think it’s important to understand how our tubes are used in their final end use/application.

On a personal level, it is sometimes hard for me not to become too much of a geek when talking to friends and family about what I do, especially when we’re on an aeroplane. I always remind those around me where are tubes can be found in the aircraft such as the airframe, engine, hydraulics, fuel systems, oxygen, waste etc.

Q. What makes you feel the greatest sense of pride in your work?

It has to be knowing that we can make a tangible difference to a project that a customer is working on, or offer a solution to a problem they’ve had for a long time – perhaps even one they didn’t know about. That always makes me feel proud.

It’s a great feeling to know that millions of people each year fly on aeroplanes that use our precision tubing products and arrive safely time after time. It makes you proud of the company you work for and the high quality products we supply.

Our team works closely with our customers and engineers on all aspects of the products’ life cycle to ensure our tubing not only meets the exacting application requirements around quality, strength and integrity, but also to suggest improvements in the applications design. For example, perhaps using a lighter weight material to allow for significant aircraft weight savings and therefore reducing fuel consumption/emissions and operating costs. This approach to our work is something to be proud of too, as it opens new avenues and opportunities for both Fine Tubes as a company and for our customers.

Q. How does Fine Tubes push boundaries in the aerospace sector?

Over the years, Fine Tubes has had some really exciting projects involving our precision tubes for critical applications. Our tubes are used in the Solar Orbiter Satellite project, launched in 2020 to explore the sun, as part of the chemical propulsion system.

We have an amazing team who ensure we are accredited to the highest standards for Quality/Technical Certifications, such as NADCAP, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, as well as maintaining many Aerospace customer approvals. We offer short lead times for new product qualifications, have unique metallurgical expertise and are committed to giving excellent customer service. We strive to ensure our specialty metal tubes are performance enhancing for all parties.

Finally, we have products currently on test with customers who have taken the opportunity to do research and development testing over the past 12 months, which could change the results of how we conduct business in the future . For instance, research is ongoing into whether our tubes could go thinner, be made from different alloys or achieve improved surface condition on the ID to improve the flow rate of fluid transfer.

My role also involves the emerging space sector for which Fine Tubes manufactures tubing for satellites and launch vehicles. We see this as a growing sector and we are keeping a close eye on the UK's commercial spaceports especially with the Government’s plans to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to 10 per cent by 2030.

Q. What are your views on the aerospace sector in the future? Have you noticed any signs of the aviation market recovering?

Compared to last year, we’re certainly starting to see the first signs of recovery. You only have to look at the sky and you’ll notice more planes flying around. Thanks to the positive vaccination rates happening worldwide, holidays and tourism could well return soon and therefore help to increase the recovery even more.

Over the past few years, we’ve all become much more aware of our environmental footprint, and I would say we’re all more mindful about how we impact the environment in a negative way. The aviation sector is going to have an exciting future ahead as it addresses the need to reduce emissions while remaining operational, which should bring some welcome challenges to the industry. Fine Tubes will, of course, be there to support whatever the future brings.

Q. How have you been working during the pandemic? What changes have there been in your department?

Normally, my job would involve a lot of travel around the world. I would normally be out of the office at least one week every month on average. During the pandemic things have been of course different.

We have been following Government guidelines as much as possible, so if you have a job where it’s possible to work from home, we have been advised to do so. We have been using technology as much as possible to compensate where we cannot have face-to-face meetings, so there has been lots of phone calls and online meetings with colleagues and customers.

I think it’s been more important than ever to maintain customer relationships during this global pandemic, not only from a business point of view but from a mental health and social aspect too.

It has been vital to let our customers know that we’re still here, we’re still working and we’re still here to support them as much as we can – whether that’s help with an important order, processing a fast delivery, offering assistance with a technical issue or simply being someone to talk to if they needed that.

Q. How can we encourage more women to consider a career in engineering?

I think we need to create a better understanding of what opportunities are available in engineering from a young age and break the stereotype that engineering is an industry predominantly for men.

Luckily, things are changing for the better and equal opportunities are much more present now than in historical times. However, this could be enhanced further by activities such as work placements, site visits or taking your children to work days. Any of these could help to spike an interest in engineering or STEM in younger girls.

Another way would be to raise the profile of women in engineering on a day-to-day basis is via social media. This is important because it allows other women to see that having a successful career in engineering is possible and then, perhaps, they might find that extra bit of confidence to or push to apply for a similar job role.

Engineering careers really can be for anyone; you just need to ensure you have the drive, determination, and passion to make a difference in today’s fast-changing and adapting environments.

Q. What would you advise any women looking to pursue a career in science and engineering?

Go for it and don’t let anything or anyone hold you back from following the career path you choose! Don’t worry about stereotypes or what certain people may say or think. It’s about you, so make the right choice for you and you alone.

There’s plenty of information out there, so take your time and do your research. Join or follow groups led by women on LinkedIn or other social media platforms and read books/papers/articles written by women to familiarise yourself with what it could be like to have a career in engineering.

STEM is a huge sector with limitless opportunities and the skills you will learn are often sought after and in demand, so it’s a great long term career choice with options to move and grow, along with the industry sector you choose to work in.

Never be afraid to follow your passions.