Risk and Investment Manager, Northern Gas Networks

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If you enjoy a STEM subject, pursue it! Don't ever let anyone tell you that a subject won't be useful to study further.

Claire Spencer

What do you do?

I work in the Asset Strategy department for Northern Gas Networks. My team look at the pipes, equipment and kit that supply gas to the homes of our customers and look to estimate when they will need replacing before they fail. This is an important role because if they fail, customers could either lose gas to their home (which would mean they wouldn't be able to cook or have a bath or shower) or there could be a gas explosion and buildings could be damaged or in the worst case people could get hurt. We calculate how much the replacement of the pipes and equipment will cost and we make sure that we are not spending too much money, so that this keeps the cost of gas bills low.
We also look at how we can put new pipes in the ground to supply gas to homes that don't currently have it, this is important as it's more expensive to heat your home using electricity rather than gas.
Finally, we look at what we need to do in the future to make sure that we are doing the best for the environment. This involves looking into whether we could use greener gas sources such as hydrogen to meet our country's carbon targets.

Why did you choose this field?

I never really knew what I wanted to do after school, but I always enjoyed STEM subjects, problem solving and learning new things. I applied for lots of jobs in finance after university, but ended up getting a role near where I live that was working with water companies. It turned out that I loved it and I went on to work for a water company and now with Northern Gas. My dad was an engineer and worked for BT, so I've ended up working in a similar sector. He always encouraged me to study maths and this has definitely helped me with my career.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I wish that I'd taken my maths study further. If only I'd have known what careers maths could lead to! I did maths at A level and chose not to study it at university as I thought the only career option as a result would be as a school teacher which I didn't really want to do. There's so many more roles that maths applies to (from engineering to sports analytics) and I use it every day in my job.

Why do you love working in STEM?

The thing I love about my job is that no day is the same. There is a lot of variety and a new problem to solve. Not only do we have to think about how we spend our money on the pipes and kit, but we also have to think about computer equipment, our vans and our people. There is a lot of new challenges impacting the gas companies such as new environmental targets, and how we meet these is an exciting challenge with lots of opportunities to learn new things.

Best advice for next generation?

If you enjoy a STEM subject, pursue it! Don't ever let anyone tell you that a subject won't be useful to study further as it won't lead to a job. Employers are looking for young people with STEM skills and there's lots of exciting STEM roles available

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Our diversity is our strength. Wouldn't it be a dull and pointless life if everyone was the same.”

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