Trainee Electric Engineer Daphne Bronder is working at the sharp end of a male-dominated industry – but she’s not going to allow lack of diversity to blow her career off course.
Daphne Bronder has always loved solving problems. As a girl, she enjoyed maths and sciences, and was keen to find out more about a career in engineering. Now, after completing a five-month maintenance internship with ENERCON, she works full-time as a Trainee Electric Engineer servicing the company’s wind turbines.
“No two days are the same in this job,” says Daphne, who is based in the Netherlands. “Sometimes we’ll be carrying out planned maintenance tasks; at other times we’ll be called in to go troubleshooting when a problem occurs. Whatever the issue, it’s always fascinating. Of course, working on wind turbines you need to be ‘handy’ and have technical ability – but you also need to be OK with heights! Plus, you need to be a good thinker because the work we do can be pretty specialised.”
Accepting a challenge
Daphne also loves a challenge and isn’t going to let a thing like gender imbalance get in her way. She admits that, while the renewables sector is growing more diverse every day, the engineering side of the industry is still male dominated. “But I have no problems with that,” she says. “When I was doing my technician training at college, my class was male dominated, too: there were around 20 men and only three women, including me. I can understand why women might be put off from entering the industry; although while it’s true that men are physically stronger than women, there are so many things about this job that don’t require physical strength. Working in a male-dominated environment may seem strange at first, but you soon get used to it.”
Even so, she admits that more needs to be done to attract female engineers into the wind industry. “How you do that is not an easy question to answer,” says Daphne. “Yes, it would be good for girls to become interested in science and energy and such things at a young age. I also think that companies in the industry need to do more for women: that can even be making sure we have our own toilets and changing rooms, and that we have overalls and helmets in our size. I’m always pulling the trousers of my overalls up so that they’re not too long. Correct sized PPE can be a challenge!”
At school in the Netherlands, Daphne took the chance to learn about climate change and green issues. “There wasn’t one moment where I suddenly understood the importance of climate change,” she admits. “It was a step-by-step process for me. It was an option for us at school, so I thought: why not? Then I became interested in the issue and felt that if I got the chance to do something in renewables, such as working on wind turbines, I would. Then I did get the chance.” After school, Daphne received vocational training at college with the STC Group, passing her four-year MBO Allround Operation Technician - Maintenance qualifications in June.
As part of her MBO training, Daphne needed to find hands-on experience with a company internship, and contacted different recruiters including Atlas Professionals. “I talked with Atlas about what I should do with my career, and if it was right to go into the wind industry,” she says. “I asked them should I try offshore or should I stay onshore? Ultimately we came to the conclusion that my current employer was the right one for me.”
Daphne is pleased that her wind turbine work is playing a crucial role in environmental protection, and also that she has a job with a long-term, secure future. “As long as people think wind energy is important, it will get investment and there will be more of it,” she says. “And that’s good.”
As for her own future, she isn’t looking too far ahead – at the moment, at least. “Now I work full time for the company, I’m concentrating on learning as much as possible from them,” she says. “I’m really enjoying what I do. At the beginning of my internship, it was hard and I wasn’t sure what direction to take. But now it’s totally clear: I’m right where I want to be.”