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Mechanical engineers, bex and caroline at Leith shorefront

Bex and Caroline: a shared passion for designing and engineering products to transform lives

Published: June 2022

Specialising in product and mechanical design engineering, Bex Jones and Caroline Mackie joined Shore to apply their shared passion of positively influencing people’s lives through design.

Here they share an insight into their roles as Design Consultants, why they pursued a career in engineering and discuss the representation of women in engineering. They provide a glimpse into the life-changing projects they’re currently working on – from a novel reusable drug delivery system to an innovative insulin patch pump.

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

Bex: In school I always enjoyed, and knew my strengths lay with, Maths and Physics. I was intrigued with how things worked and therefore knew engineering would favour these skills. However, I also had a very keen interest in the creative aspect of Product Design and the relationship between people and products, which is what made my university course so ideal as I was able to combine these passions. Both Caroline and I have a masters in Product Design Engineering from the University of Glasgow but studied at different times. Over the five years of the Product Design Engineering course, the huge variety of courses and projects helped guide me towards my career today.

Caroline: For me, I always had a passion for maths, art and technology. Product Design Engineering allowed me to utilise these skills and allow me to work in a wide range of sectors. I also had the drive to design and develop new products and technologies that would have an impact on people lives. Product Design Engineering was the perfect fit for both creativity and problem solving, getting the opportunity to work on different projects in my degree was a huge insight into how these skills could be used in multiple sectors.

What made you want to apply your skills to medical and pharma sectors?

Bex: I was always drawn to medical based projects at university and completed a few throughout my five years. On the back my fourth-year project, I was fortunate enough to be selected for an internship in New Zealand, where I spent 7 weeks working for a Telecare company designing assistive devices. I believe this solidified my desire to work in the medical industry as I got to see first-hand the positive impact you can make on people’s lives through great innovation. It was no shock that I opted for my final year project to be medical related. I was able to speak to some incredible medical professionals and users in the hospital throughout the project, which was an invaluable experience and one I won’t forget.

Caroline: Likewise, in my final year I designed a medical device, and it was by far my favourite project. I loved the process; working with end users, getting to speak to medical professionals and seeing how good design could make a massive impact. Designing/ working on products and technologies with a user focus was also a key reason I wanted to work in the medical sector. In previous roles I have worked in the yacht and microfluidic device sectors which were very varied. Working in these really highlighted the fact I wanted to work on user focused products in an organisation that would allow me to see the concept to commercialisation process. Being able to develop products that improve the lives of others is a huge privilege and something I want to continue in the future working in the medical sector.

What projects are you working on?

Bex: I am currently working on a novel, reusable drug delivery system designed for self-administration. I was very fortunate to join this project from the initial stages, so I have had a diverse range of tasks from initial concept generation to human factor studies. I’m very excited to see how the project comes out as I think it’s an incredible concept for the future of drug delivery systems.

Caroline: I am working on an innovative insulin patch pump which will provide a range of enhancements to make managing blood sugar levels easier for diabetics. It’s an extremely exciting project with lots of technical challenges. I joined the project during technical development so have been involved with product testing and DFM (design for manufacture) which has been a great learning experience – especially learning more about large scale injection moulding. It’s been a great project to work on and I’m excited to see the end result.

What does your usual day look like?

Bex: I’m known as the kind of person who fits 26 hours in a day. I start most mornings with a gym session as I find it’s a great way to wake up and get the endorphins flowing. Then I get the bus across town to Leith, where I don’t think the Shore-front morning view ever gets old (if it’s sunny that is). Regarding my work schedule, the tasks can change completely week-by-week, which is one of the things I love most about working in a design consultancy. Then after work I’ll either be heading home for the afternoon to get ready for hockey training, going to see friends, or if it’s a Friday to join the rest of the team at the Malt & Hops (the pub next door to our office).

Caroline: I’ve become more of a morning person since we got our dog Barley a few years ago. Mornings usually involve a walk with the dog before heading to the office. My work schedule is incredibly varied, and I get the opportunity to work on different tasks with a range of people, which I really enjoy. After work you’ll either find me on the tennis court or out with friends, and as Bex said if it’s a Friday I’ll be in the Malt & Hops with the team.

What do you like most about working at Shore?

Bex: Before working at Shore, I had known about and followed their work since starting university. What always drew me to Shore was the amazing range of products they had produced over the years, as well as being so loyal to their roots. Some summers between university I even emailed asking if they were taking on any interns, so it was no surprise that when the job opportunity came up, I jumped on it! It’s funny to look back on as I almost feel I manifested being here years ago and feel extremely fortunate that I am. I love how Shore provides the opportunity to work on a broad range of products, designing innovative solutions for the future of the medical industry. The diverse knowledge and skills that the team have is also incredible, and I know it will take many years to try and absorb it all.

Caroline: I had also been following Shore’s work for several years before joining and their diverse project portfolio really stood out to me. The fact that the company is based in Edinburgh is also a huge bonus as I love the city. No two days are the same, being given the chance to work on various aspects of projects is fantastic to gain experience across the whole product development process. I feel lucky to be a part of such a creative, skilled, and diverse team at Shore. It is amazing working with people who are driven to developing life changing products and who’s experience and knowledge I can learn from. I’m 6 months in at Shore and it’s been exciting to experience working for an employee owned business, it’s great that we all have a stake in the future of the company and we all get to share in our success.

The number of women in engineering roles continues to sie, but still only make up 16.5% of engineers. Did you have any support when pursuing your career that was particularly encouraging?

Bex: I think my main support when pursuing this career were my mum and dad. They were incredible at eliminating the idea in my head that engineering and STEM related subjects were for men and encouraged me to apply to any opportunity with confidence. Thankfully I can see this is a dying trend and have seen more STEM related programmes and support being carried out across schools, so hopefully this sets up the foundations for a 50/50 split for the future.

Caroline: I agree with Bex, my parents were also a big support when I was thinking about pursuing engineering. In my degree we were lucky enough to have an even split in our year, so it wasn’t obvious to me the lack of women in this industry. It wasn’t until I started working that I saw the large gap. In my first job out of university I worked and met with women who were working as production/engineering managers. Learning about their experiences in this profession and how things have changed was helpful. When I was a student I was part of an organisation called FemEng which helped encourage girls to get into STEM subjects, this again, allowed me to see women who were thriving in engineering and it was really encouraging to see how successful women are in STEM roles.

Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day, what would you say to any young women considering an engineering-related career?

Bex: Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to question something! I think if you’re curious about things, creative or even just enthusiastic, then engineering is a career that I highly recommend. Having a job that provides you with such a diverse range of skills and a variety of projects to work on and learn from is extremely rare, in my opinion, so go for it! You never know, your blue-sky ideas could change people’s lives.

Caroline: I’d say if you love solving problems, are creative or both I would strongly recommend engineering. Taking something from an idea to a real-life working device is so satisfying and there’s so much to learn in the process. There are so many avenues you can go down as an engineer, and the range of projects you will get the chance to work on is so rewarding!


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