Gillian Winding Operative

From Administrator to Winding Operative at 55 – Gillian’s Story

In 2023, Gillian decided it was time for a change. She wanted to branch into engineering and embrace new challenges. After discussing her aspirations with her husband—a current employee of Houghton International—she learned about an opening for a winding operative at the company. Seizing the opportunity, Gillian took the risk, applied, and secured the position.

Switching career paths can be daunting, before joining Houghton International, Gillian had established a reliable career as an administrator. Her experience in organisation and problem-solving provided invaluable skills that, perhaps unexpectedly, aligned well with engineering.

We sat down with Gillian to discuss her journey and to offer insights and encouragement to other women contemplating a similar change. We hope her story inspires you.

Why did you choose a career in engineering?

According to Engineering UK, women remain a minority in the engineering industry, making up only 16.5% of the workforce. When asked why she chose engineering, Gillian explained, “I had worked in offices all my life and even lived in Spain for five years. It was great, but I wanted to do more, something different. My husband mentioned a job opening at Houghton International, and I thought, why not try it?”

She continued, “Engineering has always appealed to me. Working behind a screen my entire career left me wanting to be on the shop floor, learning hands-on skills you can’t get anywhere else.”

What do you do?

Gillian is a winding operative whose role encompasses a variety of tasks. She shared, “As a winding operative, my daily tasks include manufacturing high-voltage coils, motor rewinds, and assisting the wider team in installing electro-mechanical assets onto rotors.”

There are many roles within engineering, from design engineers and engineering officers to winding operatives like Gillian. If you’re interested, numerous resources specifically for women offer networking events, job opportunities, and advisors to help you get your foot in the door.

Would you recommend a job in engineering?

“Absolutely. As a 55-year-old woman who has made a dramatic career shift, I highly recommend a job in engineering for all ages. I wish I had the chance to do this when I was younger, but it just wasn’t an option.”

Gillian added, “I know it’s intimidating to join a male-heavy field, but I’ve found all the staff on the shop floor to be incredibly supportive on my journey.”

What would you say to other women considering a career in engineering?

The final question is important. What advice would you give to women in engineering or those who might not have considered it an option?

” This job isn’t just for men. To break this misconception, we need to pave the way for future generations. Young girls need to see us in these roles to know they can achieve the same. If you’re nervous, remember it’s not a permanent commitment. Gaining real-world experience will help you understand your career direction, and if it doesn’t suit you, there’s always the option to explore something else.”

Gillian concluded our conversation with advice to young women: “For young girls finishing school, please look for opportunities that appeal to you. Explore apprenticeships and training programmes, and never be afraid to ask other women within the field for advice.”

Our apprentice scheme is a supportive program designed to give you the experience you need straight out of school. We also offer an award-winning training program,  ideal for those looking for a career change.

We’re always looking for new members to join our team. If you’re interested, please view our current vacancies or contact our recruitment team at careers@houghton-international.com for any potential opportunities.

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