Reflections on Engineering
This International Women and Girls in Science Day, we spoke to Orla Dunne, a partner and global head of Foundational Infrastructure at Goldman Sachs on how engineering has changed throughout her career and why diversity is never optional.
By Orla Dunne
My entry into a career in engineering was accidental, rather than by design, when I took up a graduate role in the technology division at Morgan Stanley before moving into coding in a revenue role. My favourite subjects in school were always maths and the sciences. I was heavily influenced by an inspiring maths teacher during my secondary school final years who helped a small group of us pursue our dream of studying higher maths, which was quite the rarity in an all-girls convent school!
I’ve remained in an engineering role ever since, and I never tire of it. One thing I love about engineering is that it involves a lot of problem solving – problems can vary in nature, but many will require a certain amount of creativity, and this is a key element to engineering that is rarely mentioned. Staying motivated is easy once you find opportunities to learn every day, which are never in short supply in this industry or the world at large.
Throughout my career, the engineering function has evolved hugely, and it has been amazing to witness and be part of its journey, from introducing technology into our business, to seeing it integrated in our everyday environments. The rate of change and evolution of solutions and platforms are also significant. It may be hard to recall, but many of the technologies we use today did not exist a decade ago.
Engineering now affects everything we do, and the pandemic and the events of this year are likely to serve as catalysts for a whole host of changes, thanks to our increasingly online and digital lives. Necessity, as often referenced, will likely be the driving force for further acceleration in certain fields; examples include: artificial intelligence that will interpret and understand the world around us; robotics and drones that will deliver care and medicine to the vulnerable; and extended reality that will disrupt eye care by performing eye exams and enabling us to browse glasses. We should also note that the as-a-service revolution and the enhanced connectivity delivered by 5G are both enablers of the above trends and ensure their availability anywhere, anytime.
As we celebrate International Women and Girls in Science Day, I think about my position as a senior woman in engineering. To me, diversity and inclusion should never be optional. Ensuring a strong pipeline of women and girls into STEM subjects depends on several factors and we should refrain from considering it just a gender issue. It requires government support for school curriculums to be current and agile, investment into the teaching workforce to ensure a high level of competency around technology and current trends, and parental understanding of the stimulating and rewarding careers that can be gained in STEM industries.