Not being afraid to get your hands dirty is the perfect way to break the mould, according to one female model maker at Ogle Models helping to #BreakTheBias this International Women’s Day (IWD).
Breaking the bias has been adopted as the campaign theme for IWD 2022, and at Ogle Models there is one member of the team that has been doing her own part to shake up the status quo for over two decades.
With a background in sculpture, and having previously worked in an Art foundry, Kirstie McLaren joined Ogle in 2000, initially as a Bench Technician – a role she now openly admits she didn’t fully understand at the time yet applied anyway following a friend’s recommendation. She has risen to become an expert in rapid prototyping, making complex moulds and casts, then finishing and building all manner of high-spec products.
Now, 22 years later, Kirstie tells all about how she carved out a role in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
I remember, in my first interview, we were sat talking across a large board table and I could see examples of the types of things being made and found myself leaning over to try and take a better look at them. It was like a new world of manufacturing! I was really excited about the way things were being made.
I had been working at a bronze foundry making statues and sculptures, using the lost wax casting method. So, seeing how differently the moulds were made here and a whole new casting process to learn, just made me excited to get started.
There are a few things here, especially when I think of what I do now. Coming from a girl’s school where we didn’t have the option to study woodwork or do technical drawing meant I didn’t have some of the basic skills most people in this sector start with. It was like learning an entirely new language when I joined Ogle, as everything in my world was centimetres and inches and everything here was millimetres or smaller, really precise.
I got some incredible training from the team when I joined and that really helped get me up to speed with everything. I made the decision to just get on with it. Once I’d made the choice to join Ogle, I was determined to make it work.
When I felt I didn’t have all the skills and experience that some of the guys had, I decided to upskill off my own back and used the machinery here to build my own kitchen from scratch. There’s no better way to hone your skills when the outcome will be in your house for a few decades to remind you of how good a job you did.
I think I surprised myself how stubborn I am. There are times where I’m just not willing to be beaten. I think without this approach, you’d find yourself giving up too easily.
I was the only woman in the workshop when I joined the team so I felt the immediate pressure because of that, but I had confidence that I would be able to transfer my understanding of casting to how the team work here.
Be prepared to get your hands dirty. You won’t stay clean. If you’re prepared to get stuck in and challenge yourself, you’ve got a strong foundation for success.
In all honestly, I’m not sure. I would hope that just by being here, in this industry, and doing a good job should make other companies look favourably on employing women into this sector. So, perhaps in that way, I’ve broken a bias.
I’ve always known I didn’t want a desk job sat in an office all day, but with that has come some heavy lifting. In the foundry, I was lifting 25kg sacks of plaster and at Ogle, I worked on a mud guard for a Triumph motorbike and the mould weighed, easily, 45kg – but I did it! I’ve got a mentality that says ‘I can do this’, and I’m aware that it’s most likely age and not gender that might mean I have to rein it in a bit and occasionally ask for some help.