Spotlight on Biva Mathias, Senior Mechanical Building Services Engineer

In the latest spotlight interview, we speak to Biva Mathias about her career path to become a Senior Mechanical Building Services Engineer at Scitech and what it is like working in a male-dominated sector.

“When I was at school, engineering wasn’t really talked about and if it was, it was in relation to car mechanics. It wasn’t a career that any of my peers or teachers discussed and so it wasn’t really on my radar,” explains Biva. “I had a love of design and wanted to be an architect. However, at university I became interested in building services engineering and the environmental design and sustainability elements.”

During a summer placement before her last year at university, Biva gained greater insight into the various disciplines involved in the construction industry. “My placement was invaluable, not only as it led to an offer of employment following my final year, but in giving me experience of what the workplace was really like. There is a big leap from what you are taught at university to what the reality of the workplace.”

Biva’s early career saw her travel the world as a building services engineer, with many projects across the Middle East. However, after a decade providing design and engineering services for new education and hospital facilities, she found herself looking for new challenges.“

After several years, you find that this work can begin to become repetitive. The designs are often very similar and so, although each project would come with its own idiosyncrasies, I found I was no longer being challenged.”

It is at this point that Biva began looking at other sectors that could provide greater challenges, which led to her role at Scitech. “The pharmaceutical and life sciences industry provides much more opportunity to specialise and to problem solve on individual projects.

The clients that we work with are using such high-tech, cutting edge equipment and require such stringent control so our designs require greater technical consideration. I also love the fact that because Scitech is a design and build company, I get to see each project through to completion. I have been with Scitech for three years and in that time have enjoyed visits to our varied projects at client sites across the UK.”

Biva admits that she found the increased regulatory requirements daunting at first, but she threw herself in at the deep end and was reassured by the knowledge that she had a supportive team on hand to offer advice. “I think the best way to learn is just to put yourself in there and ask questions so that’s what I
did. I have never been the type of person to want to be spoon fed; I find I learn much faster if I am seeking out the answers for myself.

“I feel very lucky, as Scitech has such a supportive culture and everyone works really well together. There is a great rapport across the various teams.”

It wasn’t until Biva entered the world of work that she realised how few women held technical roles within the design and construction industry.

“There is a lot more emphasis now on encouraging women into STEM roles. I didn’t really give it much thought when making my career choices and have been lucky that I haven’t felt any disadvantage. I suppose, subconsciously, I may try to prove myself more when I’m in a predominantly male team. I am lucky that there are several females on the senior management team at Scitech, including the Building Services Engineering Team lead, so I feel I have a good support network. Scitech also has a ‘Women at Scitech’ group which unites all of the female staff to discuss how we can make improvements for women at the company and how we can influence the wider sector, which is fantastic. I really hope we can
help to encourage more women into the sector.”

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