Sarah Patrick has been at Star for 9 years, since 2008. She currently works as a refrigeration engineer based in London.
Q. How did you start working for Star?
A. I came to the UK on a 12 month visa and Star assisted with the application for a longer term skilled worker visa, which enabled me to return to the UK and continue to work for the company.
Q. Where did you study and what qualifications did you gain?
A. I undertook a 4 year apprenticeship as a refrigeration mechanic/technician in Australia (similar to a service engineer in the UK) and gained a Certificate 3 in Engineering (Refrigeraton and Air Conditioning). I worked for an industrial refrigeration company in Melbourne whilst I completed my apprenticeship.
Q. What attracted you to the industry?
A. I initially worked in the wine industry as I come from a wine growing region in rural Australia. As part of my job I arranged for maintenance on various production machinery in the winery, including the ammonia refrigeration plant. I became interested in how it worked - where 'cold' comes from - and looked into how to become qualified and job prospects in the industry. After several failed attempts to get an apprencticeship I eventually secured one with the company who did the work on the cooling plant at the winery.
Q. What do you specialise in now? Or what type of projects do you work on?
A. I've done service and commissioning in Australia, since coming to Star I've worked mostly in service/maintenance and on the district heat pump project at Drammen, Norway. I've spent a lot of time on this plant since 2011 and now carry out maintenance and respond to call outs at the site. I've also worked on several other heat pumps that Star have installed in Norway and France.
Q. What do you know now about the industry which you wished you had known before?
A. Probably the unpredictable hours, the amount of time spent on the road as a service engineer and time spent living away. It's not necessarily a bad thing, I've been to some incredibly interesting places through work and often enjoy the travel aspect of it.
Q. What excites/interests you about the industry and your part in it?
A. The potential for using ammonia for new applications, such as the district heating system in Drammen, Norway. It's been a very challenging project for everyone who has been involved with it, but really rewarding to see the system now proven and working well, and the potential for using Neatpumps in other industries and locations.
Q. Where do you see your career developing?
A. I'd like to continue to have involvement in use of new and green technology with industrial refrigeration, as well as more standard systems. I'd like to remain in a field-based technical role for the medium term, to keep developing my skills as a engineer and hopefully becoming more involved in the commissioning side of things.
Q. What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the industry?
A. Nothing different to what I'd say to any man. Hours can be unpredictable, the work can be physically challenging for some and it requires high concentration levels and a large degree of resourcefulness - more often than not you work alone.
You need to be able to understand the customer's requirements for their systems and be able to explain to them the implications of any breakdowns in the refrigeration plant. You need to be adaptable to working in different environments such as remote locations, very hot or cold environments, heights, confined spaces. So, you need to be reasonably fit, able to think logically and analytically, resourceful and not too precious about getting dirty, cold or claustrophobic.
There's no reason that women can't work as service engineers, if that's what they want to do. I don't like to be singled out for being female, as it does not affect how I do my job, but I accept that i'm in the minority gender-wise and a bit of an oddity!