Stories of Women in Engineering – Dorrien Allison

Strength through diversity and balance

Project director for ALTEN in the aerospace sector  
United Kingdom

Dorrien received her degree in engineering management. Today, she heads up a team that provides management services to large engine and airframe manufacturing companies in the UK. “I joined ALTEN a year ago.” says Dorrien. “After some 15 years in engineering management, I decided to take some time off to be with my family during the Covid pandemic. When I was ready to get back into the workplace, I wanted a role that would utilize my skills in the industry sector and in project management but would also give me the flexibility to continue to support my young family. At ALTEN, I am developing in my career and taking advantage of the good growth opportunities it offers me.” 

What is it you enjoy the most in your current role?

The best thing about the role I have at the moment is the pace of the work –  there’s always something to do, always something to deliver to the customer. Equally, there is a lot of variety. I also enjoy the autonomy to deliver the projects the way I want and the support I have to do that. There are clear goals, a clear definition of what needs to be achieved, but with the flexibility to choose how I want to make that happen. 

Recently you were promoted. How does that recognition feel?

One of the things I like is that if you do your job well and you deliver well, you will be recognized and rewarded. It’s important to me that women are well represented at ALTEN in senior technical roles, but there is still room for improvement. That’s something I’d like to see change.

What values do you feel are essential?  

At ALTEN there is real respect among colleagues and this is important to me. I want my workplace to be enjoyable. My team is strong and people like and respect each other. We all work hard, but we’re working in the same direction. Another thing at the core of ALTEN is quality of service. This permeates every bit of the work we do. We have strong quality processes and deliver excellence in everything we do.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Lots of coffee! It can be hard getting up in the morning with two small children. But I’m always happy to come to work because I enjoy the people I work with. And there’s a real clarity of purpose. I never come in not knowing what’s expected of me and I’m able to give that clarity to my team. There are immediate feedback loops in the way we run the projects so we know when we’re succeeding and what’s working well.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you face?

Balancing family life and work life is is difficult at times, and I think that’s the case for any working parent. Then there’s the constant drive to improve. We know we can’t stand still and keep doing things the way we’ve always done them – we need to get better and that can create challenges.

Do you feel empowered to make decisions?

Yes, that’s definitely one of the most refreshing things about this job. At ALTEN I feel that I have control over my projects, control over the decisions I make. Having the ability to drive your own success is really refreshing. There are clear processes that we use to deliver projects and we know what we should achieve. At the same time, there is enough flexibility to adapt this to what each individual project requires. I know what I need to do to be successful in my role.

What does Building Tomorrow’s World Today mean to you?

I think the reason I became an engineer was to try to make changes, to make things happen. This is what engineers do – we improve and change things. This applies to the services and products we deliver to our customers, and I think that’s what it means to me: keeping an eye on the future while looking at how we can improve and change how we work today.

What sets ALTEN apart?

Our clients see us as providing high-quality and high-value-added service delivery. This is important in the aerospace sector where we have to take into account safety concerns and things like that. They trust us to deliver and to find new and innovative ways to do this without taking up too much of their time. In this sense, I think the relationships we build with our customers set us apart – the communication that we have with them.

How do you see your role as team leader?

I’m there to enable my team to succeed. I set the direction, make sure they know what’s needed and that they have what they need to deliver. For the clients, I’m there to deal with any issues and to give them confidence that we have the processes in place to deliver what they need. Really, 95% of it comes from my team – I’m there to back them up.

What would you say to someone who is looking to join ALTEN?

I’d tell them that ALTEN is a great place to work. People are supportive and there’s a real clarity of purpose, which I personally find very refreshing – it makes it makes the hard work easy. There’s also great growth potential. We need capable, talented people to join our teams and help us on our journey. We have a bit of fun along the way too. I would love to see more women in the technology sector with a project management background. We know that diversity is a key strength.

Do your kids understand what you do? Would you like for them to follow in your footsteps?

My eldest is four. She knows that mommy’s an engineer. Daddy’s an engineer, too. Right now she would still like to be a pterodactyl or a princess, she’s keeping her options open. But seriously, I would say she understands on some level but daddy’s job is easier to explain because it’s hands-on – he makes engines. And yes, I would absolutely encourage her to go into engineering. I think she’s going to grow up in an environment where that’s an option for her, and I think that can only be a good thing.

Can you tell us a bit more about your role as a mentor?

I feel privileged to be a mentor – it’s something I’m passionate about. There are a lot of female engineers in the Group, but typically as you move up in any organization minority groups are underrepresented. This is particularly true for women in STEM fields. So it’s really about making sure that we level the playing field and encourage women to know what their options are. 

Women at the heart of technological transformation

ALTEN’s women and men are the driving force behind our business. Our Group’s ability to develop and promote the best talent available is fundamental in enabling us to meet our customers’ needs. Over past years, we have made concerted efforts to counter certain widely held stereotypes and misconceptions in order to encourage engineering vocations among young women. This collection of profiles, Stories of Women in Engineering, is aimed at just that. 

ALTEN is committed to motivating women to join the technical and scientific fields. We hope these Stories of Women in Engineering will contribute to a growing awareness of the vital role women play in science and technology, as innovators, as experts and as colleagues.” Simon Azoulay, Chair and CEO.

Come along their journeys building tomorrow’s world.