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CIBSE ASHRAE Graduate of the Year 2023 - Francesca James

Hi, I'm Francesca James, CIBSE ASHRAE Graduate of the Year 2023.


Why did you enter the awards?

I was inspired by a previous graduate from my company, Lucy Sherburn, who won Graduate of the Year 2021. She spoke very highly of the experience, and when I researched it, I found that I was already participating in activities that could help my application, such as engaging with industry through contributing to the CIBSE technical symposium and being a STEM Ambassador. There is of course no harm in entering, so I thought I’d give it a go!


Have you received any exciting opportunities since winning the YEAs?

The most exciting opportunity was being able to attend the annual ASHRAE conference in Chicago! It was interesting to hear the international view on building services topics, as well as wider topics such as diversity, and AI. It was also great to spend time with other members of CIBSE, to meet so many new people, and to see a new city.

I’ve been able to get involved in some industry publications. I was asked to write an article for the WIBSE LinkedIn page about my experience at ASHRAE and was also interviewed for an article in Design and Build “Bridging the gender gap in engineering”.

Another opportunity was the invitation to attend and speak at the Rumford Club, which was a very enjoyable evening and, again, it was great to be able to network with the wider Building Services community.


Why should you enter?

It’s been an amazing experience – I would advise all building services graduates to enter. The application process itself encourages wider industry engagement, which is such a positive for your career.  I also found that it’s been great to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I’ve developed professionally as a result.


Do you have any building services icons that you would like to celebrate?

All my colleagues at FairHeat would be my building services icons. I learn so much from them every day, and I’m grateful that going to work is fun.


How do you think your experience in entering and being shortlisted for the YEAs has helped to boost your confidence and development as an early career engineer?

The whole process has massively helped my confidence. All shortlisted applicants give a presentation at the Young Engineers Awards, and this experience was out of my comfort zone but very fun, and ultimately helped to improve my presentation skills. I also now feel a lot more comfortable meeting new people within the industry.


What would you like to do to inspire the next year's applicants?

I hope that once graduates realise that being shortlisted for or winning the award has a positive impact on their future career through industry development as well as personal development, they will be inspired to apply!


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