From the top of the Shard, to the middle of Wembley stadium to one of Europe’s biggest undercover shopping malls, in her job as a Senior Fire Engineer with the London Fire Brigade (LFB), Lynsey Seal has seen those areas of London that are usually out of sight for most people.
Although there was a long way to the top, one step on Lynsey’s career ladder was graduating from BEng (Hons) Fire Engineering with First Class Honours and Best Fire Dissertation in 2008.
Steering into Fire Engineering was an unexpected move, and “a steep learning curve”, as she describes it. Before starting her degree, she admits she had never heard of Fire Engineering. However, with the support of “two excellent mentors” within LFB, she was sponsored to undertake her UCLan qualifications, as well as becoming a Chartered Engineer with the UK Engineering Council.
Lynsey explained: “My role at the moment is a mix of project work, monitoring and development of new Group members and team/strategic management responsibilities." As joint Head of LFB Fire Engineering Group, she manages a team of five full-time fire engineers.
Their primary tasks involve reviewing complex fire safety strategies and solutions, but their role is 'much wider'. She says: “We participate on numerous technical committees with a view to seek continual improvement in fire safety design standards and have participated on a variety of research projects providing a fire service viewpoint and independent technical comment.”
A unique feature of her position is having an impact in the design phase of various buildings, identifying failures in their design and construction, as well as analysing their behaviour under fire.
“The degree was an essential part of my development path as a fire engineer and is deemed so important to the role of an LFB fire engineer that it is a requirement of the post to be studying or hold this particular qualification. As the degree is accredited with the UK Engineering Council it was also an important part of the professional registration process.”
But Lynsey is also working towards a brighter future for women in engineering.
“At the beginning of my career I felt a strong sense of the need to prove myself and gain the respect purely due to the fact that I felt like an interloper in what was a male dominated environment.”
Although she now works in an environment where she is completely supported and respected, Lynsey chose to join in on the collective voice of The Women’s Engineering Society (WES), who are promoting careers in engineering, supporting companies with gender diversity and generally working to inspire women in sciences.
“I’ve volunteered at a local school to provide input to prospective female science students on fire engineering. I am an active member of the Institution of Fire Engineers who are linked into WES and I am also looking at ways of feeding information on engineering into the networking women in the fire service forum,” says Lynsey. “I have only ever worked within the engineering industry but I’ve been pleased to see the changes that have been made over the years in terms of the numbers of women I now work with on a regular basis and the respect they have gained and recognition that they have for their roles.”
Lynsey’s advice to those considering a similar career is “to become involved in bodies such as the Institution of Fire Engineers and to consider a role within a Regulatory body. There are opportunities to use your qualifications and gain a different perspective on building design and management from that of a design consultant.”