STEM Women Success Stories – Zainab Ahmad, Future Biogas

Jul 09, 2024 Careers AdviceResources 4 minutes read

This month will see many students graduating from university and seeking new career opportunities. The job search can seem daunting – so with this in mind, we caught up with Zainab Ahmad, Renewable Energy Graduate at Future Biogas, a renewable energy company, to find out her tips for success.

Zainab studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Surrey, and like many students and graduates, she didn’t have a fixed plan in mind for her future career.

‘I wanted to do something related to my degree, and I was initially interested in the automotive sector. I did an internship in renewable energy, and that gave me the confidence to apply for this role’.

Zainab spoke about her experiences preparing for the transition to graduate work:

‘I started looking at career opportunities during my third year but I was focussed on my studies, and wasn’t putting my full focus onto applications. My university helped with CV-building and supported me to secure my internship, which enabled me to develop skills and experience.

After graduation, I kept a spreadsheet listing the jobs I’d applied for and what stage I got to. Of course, it’s disheartening to see that you’ve been unsuccessful in some applications, but it’s part of the process!’

Top tip: keep a list of the jobs you’ve applied for and include the job description. You’ll need to refer back to this if you’re shortlisted for the job and it may not be available online anymore!

Zainab described how STEM Women helped her to find her new role:

‘I’d joined the STEM Women mailing list in first year of university and attended some events, even though I wasn’t looking for a job at that stage. I carried on receiving the updates and saw that this job was based in my preferred location, so I applied!

I was able to use my internship experience to support my application, but I also researched the company via their website and social media channels which helped me to understand their mission and values. I submitted my CV and was invited to interview.’

Top tip: research the company to identify key words they use and align your application.

The interview process

‘The interview was on Teams but there was also an option to do it in person. I usually prefer in-person interactions but unfortunately I had Covid so I had to do it on Teams! I was nervous as I wasn’t feeling my best, and the interview didn’t last as long as expected. In hindsight, I think that was because I gave concise answers, thoroughly researched the company, and made sure to hit all my key points, but coming out of the interview I wasn’t sure if it has gone well.’

Top tip: Prepare at least two questions to ask at the end of the interview. This doesn’t need to be anything technical – it can be about the interviewer’s experiences e.g. What does your day to day look like? What do you like about the company? Have follow-up questions to ask, to ensure you show an interest.

Future Biogas

‘Everyone at Future Biogas was very welcoming and I received a lot of training, such as biology training which is needed to understand the Anaerobic Digestion plants and wasn’t something I studied at university.

Future Biogas started as a family-run business which has grown to 150+ employees and eleven sites, so part of my job includes travelling to those sites, seeing how they work and speaking to the operators.’

Never a dull day

‘My role is working with data and a lot of the work is desk-based but I’m always learning new things, such as using new software, as well as travelling to do site visits. The graduate scheme allows me to shadow other teams, such as the engineering and farming team. That’s where I’ll get to do totally different things, like riding a tractor!

Top tip: Always ask questions, both to learn and to demonstrate curiosity.