Employee Spotlight: Jennie Franks


To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, we'd like to introduce you to Jennie Franks, an experienced Software Engineer at AB Dynamics, whose journey in the tech world spans two decades.

We asked Jennie to tell us her story and describe the pivotal moments that shaped her career, the lessons she’s learnt along the way, and why she is passionate advocacy for diversity in STEM.

Jennie Franks

What influenced you to choose a career in engineering? Have you had any mentors/role models help guide you?

As a child, I was mesmerised by a family friend’s collection of scientific marvels. His house was an absolute treasure trove of scientific equipment – he had an attic full of oscilloscopes, radio kit and computers, and built a weather satellite receiver in his garage. He explained the basic concepts of programming to me, and when I got my first computer in 1982, he lent me a book on programming to get me started. Home computing was still in its infancy at the time, and I learnt programming from a monthly magazine. I found the structure and certainty of programming very appealing; I have always enjoyed logic and problem solving, so a career in engineering was an easy choice.

What aspects of your role do you find most fulfilling?

The art of coding is akin to solving a complex puzzle. I like turning a problem around, mentally dismantling it and considering different aspects.  I remember one of my son’s Maths teachers enthusing that a really good Maths solution has “an elegance to it”, and I feel the same way about software.   My current job involves creating user interfaces, so I have to think about how to make it as intuitive for the user as possible.  It involves looking at everything you might want to do with the application, and then organising the graphics in such a way that it’s always quick and easy to achieve the desired outcome. When I first became a software, the notion of the user experience didn’t exist, and applications were often hard to learn and use. I find it very satisfying to create something that can be used easily by someone with bare minimum instructions. Software shouldn’t be painful to use!

This year’s INWED24 theme is “Enhanced by Engineering”, how has your life been enhanced by a career in engineering?

Engineering has been a gateway to extraordinary experiences. For a while, I worked in Paris for a company that makes flight simulators - at my job interview I got to fly a Boeing 777 around the skies above Tokyo. And as I didn’t speak French when I got the job, I had to learn it fast. My days were spent learning software techniques, and my evenings were spent practicing French. Several years later I also had the opportunity to work in an overseas office of a different employer, and spent 3 years living in California, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles.  That was quite an experience. The weather was fantastic and I still miss it.

I’m now very happily settled here in the UK, working for AB Dynamics, writing software to set up safety tests on cars using our driving robots. The tests are used in assessment programs all over the world and help new cars achieve their safety rating.

In your opinion, what are some of the unique contributions that women can bring to the field?  

Diversity fosters innovation. As one of the first women in many software teams, I’ve learned that embracing my unique perspective can drive positive change. Diversity brings fresh ideas and approaches, enriching the engineering field with a broader spectrum of creativity and insight. There is an increasing realisation across the engineering industry that companies benefit from having a diverse workforce.  I’ve done a lot of work with groups promoting inclusivity and the lesson is clear: by embracing diversity, not only do you increase the pool of talent to recruit from, but you also get new insights and perspectives.

Throughout your time with AB Dynamics, how have you seen the engineering landscape evolve, and what do you think has been the driving force behind these changes?

When I first started out, the world of computer science was a fairly exclusive club. Computing wasn’t routinely taught in STEM degrees beyond a cursory introduction so if your degree wasn’t directly related you had to teach yourself.  Fortunately, there is a lot of enthusiasm for shared knowledge among the computing community, an attitude of learning being for everyone. And with the rise of the internet, we have a platform on which to exchange ideas, methods, learning, and this has made learning to code very accessible.

How is AB Dynamics working towards a more diverse workforce?

I’m involved in a pilot programme run by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) to address diversity in the engineering profession, and AB Dynamics have been unfailing in their support, indeed I have been impressed by the support from every quarter of the business. One of the most stressful times in anyone’s job is often the first few weeks with a new company so my team has set up a monthly group for new employees where we give insights into various departments and provide a safe and reassuring environment in which to ask questions and raise concerns.  It’s also a platform where we can promote our company values, which are very strong on diversity and the value we place on our employees. AB Dynamics are also involved in several programmes to support students, including the Graduate Engineering Engagement Programme, which supports engineering students from minority backgrounds and is also run by the RAE, and Mighty Girls which is a local organisation encouraging secondary school girls in STEM subjects.  I’ve been involved with both these projects as well and have found both incredibly fulfilling. 

About INWED 2024: International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is celebrated annually on June 23rd to honour the outstanding achievements of women engineers and to encourage more girls and women to pursue careers in engineering. Organised by the Women in Engineering Society, the day highlights the contributions of women to the engineering field and promotes gender diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

AB Dynamics is proud to be a company partner of the Women in Engineering Society. If you would like to consider a career with AB Dynamics, visit our vacancies page.  

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