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No regrets

This week I have taken up the role of President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers - I should quickly add that this is a one year honorary post that I will take on in addition to my role as Chair of HSE.

It is a real honour for me to be invited to become President of my professional institution. Over the last few weeks I have been busily preparing my speech for the AGM and it has been an interesting process - looking back over the last 40 years, thinking about why I wanted to become an engineer in the first place and some of the key events that have shaped the direction my career has taken.

One of the questions that came to mind while preparing my speech was whether I would still choose to be a chemical engineer if I were applying to go to university today - and I can honestly say that I think I would. The reasons may be slightly different though.

Back then, a young girl who wanted to be a science teacher had a notion that studying engineering and getting a couple of years industrial experience would help her be a better teacher (an idea that still has its merits!). But faced with the decision on career direction now, I think I would choose engineering because I wanted to be part of tackling some of the biggest challenges which our world faces today - like providing food, clothing, shelter, energy and clean water to a population of nine billion by 2050.

It is thinking about the role in terms like these that inspires people to stay the course and become engineers.

Do I think I would still enter the world of health and safety? The interesting thing about becoming an engineer is that this is not an optional choice - it is fundamental to the role. The answer is clearly: "Yes".

And the key thing is that when I speak to other engineers, I don't have to explain that I'm not talking about banning conkers and school trips and cheese rolling - they know that's not what it's all about.

Becoming an engineer was a good decision for me even though I never followed the plan to go into teaching. I have enjoyed many different roles over the last 35-plus years, mostly in industry, but latterly as Chair of HSE.

I know this is an organisation tackling a key challenge of yesterday, today and tomorrow - ensuring that people go home to their families every night safe and well from a day's work.

I am honoured to become President of IChemE, I'm proud to be Chair of HSE and I'm looking forward to combining the two roles over the next year.