Women in Engineering: Meet Nicola McCheyne

Nicola McCheyne

By Nicola McCheyne
Head of Ideas Lab at Centrica Innovations

As we look forward to International Women in Engineering Day, Nicola explains how her love of STEM subjects helped to build her career.How did you get into engineering?

I knew from a fairly young age that I wanted to go into engineering. I can trace this back to a science lesson in year 6 when we were taught about energy resources and generation. I loved maths and physics at school and was fascinated with how they could be used to solve every day problems. I went on to study mechanical engineering at university and after graduation secured my first career role working as an energy advisor, developing new energy projects. After that I worked as a senior manager for an energy focused social enterprise which gave me the chance to get involved in energy projects across the south of England.

I’m very lucky that my career has given me fantastic opportunities to work at the forefront of engineering innovation, from designing the Centrica Local Energy Market project in Cornwall, to leading the development of future energy businesses, products and services through Centrica Innovations.

What do you love most about your job?

I get to work with some of the best technology and energy entrepreneurs around. Working at Centrica Innovations – a £100m investment fund established to invest in new technology and ideas that will transform the way we live, work and move through energy – means I can help businesses build their ideas and insight into services that are changing the way we interact with the world around us.

In my role I get to work with companies that are driving social and environmental change, I’m proud to work with companies that have a social purpose.

My job, requires a broad range of skills, drawing on the maths and physics that I enjoyed at school, and using my managerial and business leadership experience, too.

What has inspired you the most in your career?

I’ve got to work at the forefront of the energy and technology sectors and have been part of some amazing projects that have been disruptive and challenged the status quo. One of these projects was the Cornwall Local Energy Market – a pioneering project that has designed the first DNO flexibility market in the UK, testing the use of energy generation and storage across both the domestic and business sectors.

What advice would you give women who are new to the sector?

Don’t be afraid of getting things wrong and taking a new approach to how you work. One of the most exciting things about my job is that I have flexibility in how I tackle my day-to-day workload. Creativity is encouraged and it’s great to have freedom to try new methods, work with new businesses and tackle challenges as a team. Of course, sometimes things don’t go to plan, but this is where you can learn the most and build your experience.

I also work with women across the industry as part of the Mayor of London’s campaign to attract more young women into clean tech, I’d always suggest getting involved and speaking to as many people as possible in the field.