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Profile of Alison Cooke

AlisoncookeDr Alison Cooke CEng is a two-fold graduate of Cambridge, having studied both her BA and PhD in Engineering at New Hall, as well as a fellow of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Alison’s engineering experience, which spans over 30 years, has been both varied and extreme: from living “in” the North Sea working as an offshore engineer with BP Exploration; to managing numerous projects in the manufacturing and property industries (eg Dunlop and Grosvenor) whilst working as an academic at Cambridge University.


Background – how did you get into engineering?

I attended the Plymouth Navy Days as a teenager and was fascinated by a display from a Harrier Jumpjet: how could such a large hunk of metal perform such balletic manoeuvres?

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?

I have worked in the field of national energy plans (and how that relates to climate change) since 2009. In the future, I intend to give as much of my energy (!) as possible to ensure that my children and my childrens’ children will still have a beautiful planet to live on; and with a global sustainable energy supply.

What motivates/interests you?

My varied work in engineering spanning 30 years (eg see last question) has always motivated me. In addition to that I am a very keen sportswoman (represented England at tennis in 2015, won English Open at Racketlon in 2017).

What has helped your career?

My Cambridge Engineering degree; sheer grit/determination; and emotional intelligence.

How have you overcome challenges/knockbacks in your career?

Sheer grit and determination!

I like the following philosophy (sorry, don’t know the source): ‘Life may have taken things from you that you never thought you would lose, but one thing remains which it cannot take…..your choice as to how you will live tomorrow.’

How have you managed to balance family life/other interests with your career?

Balancing marriage and career was easy; balancing children and an engineering career was difficult. The established workplace was not flexible enough for me as a mother and so I left to set up my own business, which was more flexible and quadrupled my financial remuneration. This also means that now I am able to balance ageing parents with my career.

Do you have any advice for those who are considering studying/pursuing a career in engineering?

Don’t let anyone tell you that it is not a career that women should consider. I was told this as a teenager (circa 1980) by many folk and I am now a Fellow of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers. If you enjoy the subject and its future prospects, go for it!

Image:Alison Credit: Alison Cooke

Published 15/12/2017