Ilaria's story

When and how did you realise that you want to pursue a STEM career?

I've always been a practical person and I've always wanted a fulfilling career, so it was only a matter of time until I found my way into engineering. When I was in primary school my favourite things to do were playing with Lego cars and fixing my beloved mountain bike (I was very good at riding in the woods and even better at getting flat tyres), so I told my parents I wanted to become a 'fixer' engineer. Years later I discovered that there was so much more to engineering than just fixing things: planning, designing, modelling, prototyping, assessing, optimising, recycling... they all attracted me, so I had no doubt that engineering was the right path for me.


How does the Open University help you achieve your goals?

I moved to the UK in winter a few years ago and hoped to get started with university as soon as possible. Having already decided that I wanted to become a chartered engineer, I considered my options and quickly realised that the Integrated Masters of Engineering offered by The Open University was the perfect solution, so I enrolled on the programme just in time for the spring start. Two years and several modules later, I know joining the OU was indeed the right choice for me: the 100% online modules allow me to fit my life around university and vice-versa in ways that would never be possible if I had to attend classes at a brick and mortar university. Because I can manage my time however I choose, I am currently able to work part-time as Quantitative Analyst, study Engineering full-time, participate in this year's UAS Challenge with Team OUFO, volunteer at the local RSPCA, and still have enough free time to travel with my partner, exercise, and relax.


What would you say to someone who thinks that maths is hard or that maths is pointless?

Ah, you're half-right. Maths can be hard and very, very frustrating at times, but I don't think it's pointless. Something pointless has no sense, no use, no purpose... have you ever compared two insurance quotes to get the best deal? Estimated how long it would take you to drive from point A to point B? Made some measurements at home before buying new furniture? You don't need to solve complex systems of equations to buy some bread and milk from your local shop, but if you're trying to get rid of spare change (I, for one, always am), you may want to do the maths to make sure you're not 1p short. Maths is everywhere around us, so why not make the most of it?


Have you ever been the victim of a gender stereotype?

No. My family and friends – mostly males, mind! – have always respected me and supported my decisions. I was born in Italy and have lived in 5 different countries so, as you can imagine, I have heard my fair share of ethnic stereotypes (yes Italians often gesticulate when they speak, no they don't throw the pasta against the wall to check if it's done, yes I used 'they' because personally I don't do either), but I have never had to deal with gender stereotypes.