Clar Collins: on engineering as a career
Clar is global head of project engineering and product management at GE’s Grid Solutions, leading a team of 500 engineers across the globe.
“It’s been interesting learning about the different project dynamics in each country and region, and with each customer,” Clar says. “Each area is unique and has different challenges. It’s most rewarding to help the teams overcome these challenges and adapt our processes so we can really support them. The ability to put future strategy in place that will really drive engineering forward is a big honor and a great privilege for me.”
Women in a Male-Dominated Profession
One of Clar’s goals is to encourage women to join GE as engineers. “Many studies have shown that the best and most pro-active teams are those that are varied and dynamic. To address the diversity imbalance, I am always looking for a good pipeline of worthy candidates. I’m privileged now to be able to have that influence.”
She remembers that diversity imbalance well, although she didn’t recognize it when she first decided to become an engineer—at age 14, after a career day presentation at her school. Born in Belfast, Ireland, she was the first of her siblings to leave home to study abroad. The only girl in her class at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, where she received a higher national diploma in mechanical engineering and manufacturing, she then was just one of five females out of 75 engineering students at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree, with honors, in mechanical engineering. The male-influenced environment encouraged Clar to seek out female friends in other ways, like playing and captaining the women’s football team at Manchester Metropolitan university during her time there.
“Today, more and more women are leaning into the strengths of the STEM subjects (four specific disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and realizing it can be so rewarding,” Clar says. “It is a different world from even when I studied, which wasn’t that long ago.”
Shaping the Future
Her main focuses for her team in 2020—in addition to safety and design for safety, which are always top concerns—are more attention to detail, delivering quality, understanding the customers’ contractual requirements and meeting commitments, she says.
“I am so fortunate to work with the most clever, dedicated, talented people. And we are working on projects that make a difference to the world. We talk about climate change, global population growth and the environment, and proudly recognize that our projects really do make a difference to the communities.”
Back when she was studying to become an engineer, Clar never dreamed she could have such an influence. “From the beginning, I wanted to be involved in projects that helped the world, but I never thought I’d have the privilege nor the opportunity within the organization to help shape the future strategy for the engineering community. I’m very humbled—and very grateful for that.”