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International Women in Engineering Day 2023 – Spotlighting Keighley Ziolkowski, Manager – Process Safety

23rd June 2023 - Written by Suzanne Lindsay

International Women in Engineering Day celebrates women pursuing a career in engineering, raising the profile of women who are making a difference in the field of engineering every day.

The theme for this year is ‘Make Safety Seen’ and we are delighted to showcase Keighley Ziolkowski, Keighley joined us in 2016 as a Process Safety Engineer and in 2020, was promoted to Manager, Process Safety. Keighley works with largely male process safety colleagues and clients and despite this is very well loved and respected, a testament to her personality and professionalism.

Meet Keighley and hear about her career below:

Did you always want to be an engineer?

My interest in pursuing a career in engineering started at High School where I was drawn towards STEM subjects – maths, chemistry and physics. I had the opportunity to attend a ‘Girls Get SET’ programme at Heriot-Watt University during second year at High School which provided information on engineering and science subjects offered by universities in Edinburgh, that was the start of my passion for engineering. It was at this point that I decided post High School I wanted to go to Heriot-Watt to study engineering.

However, at the end of fifth year, I hit a crossroads. When I was looking through the Heriot-Watt prospectus to select my course, it struck me that the pictures used against the mechanical, electrical engineering and physics courses were that of male engineers at computers. I was put off, I had not studied IT at school and these courses lacked appeal so I opted for Chemical Engineering. Chemical Engineering seemed to be more accessible with my subject choices and there were more females in Chemical Engineering than any other engineering discipline. I raised my feedback on images used with the university which were duly noted and for a number of years, I was the female engineer depicted against the chemical engineer degree in the prospectus.

You have a degree in Chemical Engineering – why did you decide to specialise in process safety?

The Chemical Engineering degree includes process safety modules; following university, my first job was a Safety Consultant for an Oil & Gas Consultancy. One of the first projects I undertook was scribe for a HAZOP, this involved working with large group of engineers and analysing the process from start to finish. It was at this point I realised that working in safety would allow me to influence different projects in different industries – from project inception through to operation. I felt by pursuing a career in process safety I could bring most benefit by influencing safe design.

In your career to date, what has been your most rewarding process safety project?

Integral to my role is developing client relationships whereby I become the ‘go to’ process safety consultant supporting on various process safety projects. Core to project workload is process safety consultancy for distilleries due to the large volume of hazardous substances held on site and as such they have additional regulatory requirements. Along with my process safety colleagues, I support these sites throughout their lifetime with process design (HAZOP), operational risk (DSEAR) and additional safety studies (COMAH Safety Report).  My favourite part of my role as a consultant is that I get to deliver projects for lots of different processes and I love seeing how different sites operate. My career has taken me from LNG Facilities in Russia to pharmaceuticals in Norway and most recently the space industry in the UK!

What advice would you give to other female engineers just starting out in their career?

The strongest advice I would like to give to females considering a career in engineering is do not be intimidated by the stats, engineering currently is a male dominated industry: I have worked at lots of different client sites, all very male dominated and often I am the only women in the room! However, once we enter into technical discussions, my view point is appreciated and I have professional respect. Second piece of advice, have confidence to speak up and have your voice heard!

 What does Women in Engineering Day mean to you?

Women in Engineering Day is a good opportunity for Mabbett Women in STEM Steering Group to meet, we can meet the fresh, new faces in engineering roles, and take a moment to reflect on the activities and achievements of the steering group and that of my own which we celebrate on International Women in Engineering Day.

Thank you so much for speaking with us, Keighley – we are so proud to celebrate all you’ve achieved. Happy International Women in Engineering Day!

Suzanne Lindsay

I am an experienced business development professional and Chartered Marketer with expertise in strategic marketing planning, client relationship management, networking, event management, marketing communications, social media.