Updated: Jan 28
Preeti Mistry is a Structural Engineer and a STEM Ambassador. Answering the STEM NOW Q&A, Preeti talks of her pathway into STEM...
Who or what first inspired your curiosity in STEM?
PM: My father, who was a Civil Engineer himself, played a huge role in inspiring me on my journey to being an Engineer. Apart from being incredibly supportive and encouraging, he never let me feel that there was anything that I couldn’t do as a female. He often escorted me to construction sites to show me first hand the ‘action’ that took place there and encouraged me to think about how some of the engineering challenges could be overcome.
What was your personal journey into STEM, or your chosen field?
PM: I went to school in Dubai and did A levels in Maths, Chemistry and Physics. I then started a 3 year degree course in Civil Engineering at the University of Southampton. I went on to do a Master’s degree in Structural Steel Design from Imperial College. All this while, I did summer placements to gain industry experience while I was still in the process of becoming qualified.
Have you encountered/overcome any boundaries along your STEM journey?
PM: I started my first full time job in Manchester working for a mainstream steel fabricator. I was a little overwhelmed when I first started as I was one of two female engineers in a team of 75 engineers and technicians. However, I worked hard and spent time getting to know the team and do the best I can. This helped me gain confidence and I soon realised that it was possible to take down the mental barriers that stop us from achieving our full potential.
What is something you are working on/have worked on that excites you? Or tell us about a general aspect/topic of STEM that excites you?
PM: One of my most exciting projects is the Birmingham New Street Station. I spent about 3 years of my career working on various aspects of it. Since its completion and official opening, I have traveled through it multiple times and it still brings me immense pleasure to see mine and my teams hard work as well as that of thousands of people who were part of its design and construction. It reminds me about the positive changes that engineers can make in the wider society.
What has been your most memorable moment as a STEM Ambassador and why?
PM: After hosting an engineering activity at the Career’s Fair of my local school, I was invited back the following year. They informed me that the activity was hugely popular and that there was an increase in the number of students who opted for Design, Technology and Engineering GCSE’s the previous year. They had made their choices soon after the event. This compliment was hugely encouraging and reminded me of why we do what we do.
Why is it important that young people are introduced to STEM?
PM: Every aspect of society requires a key role to be played by someone with a background in STEM. Be it the roads we drive on, the water and electricity network powers thousands of homes, the planes we travel on from one place to other and even the theme parks we visit! Without STEM none of these would be in existence.
What advice would you give a young person considering a future in STEM?
PM: If you have the knack to think laterally, are a problem solver and want to make a difference to the world we live in, don’t give up your dreams! Persevere and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Believe in yourself!
Why is diversity and inclusion in STEM fields important?
PM: Diversity and inclusion promotes a varied thought process and brings to the table an array of ideas, experiences and talents. According to the Women’s Engineering Society, less than 13% of engineers in the UK are women which is also the lowest percentage in all of Europe. As women make up approximately 50% of the population, the industry is currently missing out on the potential of 40% of the population and experiencing a skills shortage. This makes it even more vital to bridge the gap to create a more inclusive industry.
What are your hopes for the future of STEM?
PM: I would like to get involved in more STEM activities and do the best I can to encourage girls to take up a career in STEM particularly Engineering. I want to carry on mentoring and support individuals in their career journey while dispelling any myths and limiting thoughts that may act as barriers on their journeys.