ASK award-winning Chief Operations Officer of a successful engineering business on International Women in Engineering Day who is her role model and it’s clear where she finds her inspiration.
Shiby Bernard, COO of McMenon Engineering Services, was named in The Manufacturer’s magazine’s Top 100 list of the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing for 2020.
Shiby manages day-to-day operations of McMenon Engineering Services, which has a global reputation for design, engineering and manufacturing quality flow and temperature measurement instrumentation and is expanding its calibration services.
Based at a 10,000-square-metre site at Workington, in Cumbria, the business operates in a range of industries including energy, nuclear, renewables, water, process, and food and drink sectors.
Acquired from global power and automation technology group ABB three years ago, McMenon is focused on achieving further growth in the UK as well as continuing its strong global presence, exporting to more than 60 countries including China and the Far East, North and South America, Europe, India, the Middle East, South Africa and Australia.
McMenon’s mantra is ‘investing in innovation and next generation’, it champions diversity of thinking and opportunities, and after recording a strong 12 months of business performance it has continued to invest significantly during the pandemic towards its apprenticeship and innovation programmes.
Running McMenon’s operations is all in a day’s work for Shiby who moved into engineering after gaining a Master’s degree in Purchasing and Supply Chain Management from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.
Before joining McMenon three years ago, Shiby specialised in Quality, Health, Safety, and Environment (QHSE) in her roles with engineering companies in Aberdeen.
It was much longer ago however where the seeds were sown for Shiby to become a female role model in the business and engineering world.
“My dad (Bernard) died when I was ten years old. My mum (Sara) was a teacher. She gave up her job so she could run the family business which was in retail paints for the automotive industry,” said Shiby.
“As a single mother she also had to bring up me and my two older sisters at the same time. Today both my sisters have successful careers as a Research Scientist in a company that develops and manufactures Covid-19 testing kit and the other a Financial Controller in a global energy technology company.”
Shiby grew up in Coimbatore in southern India, and says the location of her upbringing made her mum’s achievements even more remarkable.
“In India in the 1980s the business world was definitely a man’s world. You wouldn’t really find a woman running a business involved within the automotive industry there at that time.
“My mum made it happen for herself. And she instilled that in me. She has definitely been my inspiration, my role model and given me the confidence to be the person I am today.”
Shiby has a natural interest in systems and processes. “I have always been interested in computers ever since they first came about and I took computer courses in the evening while I was studying in India.”
It was Shiby’s husband Anand who also helped her fulfil her potential when she was starting out on her business career.
“When I was in Aberdeen it was Anand who saw the potential of what I could achieve in engineering,” she said.
As COO of McMenon, Shiby enjoys being involved in every element of the business.
“In an SME like McMenon you can see every aspect and every department and how it is working.
“In bigger organisations you tend to operate in your own area. But in an SME you see everything and work with the team across all the departments, often wearing more than one hat.
“You are also closer to your customers and understand the importance and value of your relationship with your customers. You know that if you don’t look after your customers then you don’t have a business.
“There’s also an agility and flexibility with an SME and an ability to make decisions a lot quicker.”
In her role, Shiby is proud that this culture enabled McMenon to adopt a completely new management system in just four months soon after the acquisition. “We all worked as a team to make that happen. It’s something we are all very proud of.”
Shiby is also a shareholder and board member at McMenon and played a key role during the acquisition conducting due diligence on the management and QHSE systems and leading the transfer of the systems from ABB to McMenon.
Looking ahead, Shiby sees greater use of emerging technologies as a key opportunity for further improving processes in the business. “It is one of the next steps for the company to make full use of that technology.”
To keep moving forward, McMenon will also continue to invest in training.
“We have invested over £40k in training in two years. In addition we have also invested in seven apprenticeships, two of whom are brilliant young women with a passion for engineering. We will continue to train people as much as we can and would like to hear especially from female candidates who would like a career in Engineering.”
Shiby and colleagues have a strong track record of spotting potential and helping individuals develop their skills.
“They don’t have to come into the business as engineers. If they have that engineering way of thinking and a willingness to learn, as long as they are hard-working, they can develop.
“I have seen people over my career from varied backgrounds who have retrained, gained experience and moved into engineering. The most memorable one being a chef who turned into one of the best engineering technicians I have come across.
“If I could say anything to women all around the world on International Women In Engineering Day it would be to believe in themselves and have the confidence to pursue what they want to achieve.
“I hope when those girls and women see females in leadership positions and in engineering roles that helps them to believe in themselves.”