Kerrine Bryan is tackling the STEM skills crisis with Butterfly Books

Kerrine Bryan is tackling the STEM skills crisis with Butterfly Books

The butterfly effect is a scientific concept whereby small causes or changes in a complex system create large effects. Kerrine Bryan adopted this concept as both the objective and brand in founding publishing firm Butterfly Books, with hopes that her storybooks will transform the way youngsters perceive various careers.

kerrine-bryan-butterfly-booksTell us about your background. Where did you start your career and how has it evolved?

I graduated in 2005 and started working as an electrical engineer in the oil and gas industry. Over the years my career progressed fairly quickly as I became the youngest principal electrical engineer in the firm.

I have since gone on to become a lead electrical engineer for multi-million dollar projects. Even before my career started I have had a passion for sharing my knowledge with young people on what engineering is about and the career opportunities within engineering.

The reason for this was that I fell into engineering by chance as I had no idea what it was until I was 17. I enjoy it so much that I would hate for anyone else to miss out just because they didn’t know what it really involved.

After years of school and university visits, talks, mentoring and volunteering in classrooms, I decided to start something that might help make a bigger change. In 2015 I co-founded Butterfly Books Limited, creating and publishing career themed children’s picture books.

Tell us bout your company. What type of clients do you work with, what inspired you to start it and how is it different to that of rivals on the market?

The butterfly is a symbol of transformation and Butterfly Books hopes to transform the way in which youngsters perceive various careers. In addition, The Butterfly Effect refers to the theory whereby a minute localised change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere and this is the hope of Butterfly books.

Our books are picture books based on different careers and are aimed at children aged between three and seven years old.

By raising awareness of careers from a young age butterfly books aims to reduce the national skills gap problems as well as promote gender equality and reduce any gender bias in various careers.

The majority of existing children’s books do not cover a wide range of careers and often contain gender bias.

Representatives from some of the most male-dominated industries will discuss strategies for retaining their female stars at the First Women Summit 2017.

 

What is a typical day for you? What does your role entail? What general challenges do you face (if any) as a founder and as a woman in your sector?

In my engineering role a typical day will consist of two or three meetings ranging from manpower planning and work scheduling to technical meetings with clients or suppliers.

I spend some time responding to emails, letters or minutes of meetings and a few hours creating and checking design documents. Most recently I have completed a secondment in a non-technical sales role.

Evenings and weekends are devoted to the books! As it’s a start-up with a small tea, it involves a mixture of tasks ranging from writing, coordinating work with the illustrator and editor, sales and distribution, marketing and accounts.

The challenges as a woman in engineering compared to the role as a founder are completely different. As an engineer I feel that there are times when I may need to prove myself more than a man would. I turn this around into a positive for my professional growth, as it pushes me to always be the best I can be.

As a founder, due to the nature of the business i.e. covering gender diversity, I haven’t come across any gender related challenges as yet.

What are your company’s biggest achievements to date?

kerrine-bryan-bookMy Mummy is an Engineer won the 2016 Bronze Wishing Shelf Book award and was a finalist in the 2016 International Book Awards. My Mummy is a Plumber was shortlisted for the 2016 Rubery Book Award.

What have been the key challenges for your organisation?

I set the business up whilst still working full-time and this has required a great deal of time management, working on the books on evenings and weekends.  I may have missed opportunities where there was a requirement to be somewhere but couldn’t be there. The challenge is trying to balance the two without them having an impact on each other.

How lucrative has the business been for you, and what excites you most about what you do?

Companies are increasingly worried about the UK’s skills gap. A survey of businesses, employing a total of 1.5m people, by the CBI employers’ organisation found that 58 per cent were not confident they would have enough highly skilled staff available for their future needs. 

In some companies are missing out on 50 per cent of the population, due to gender bias within their industry. Tackling these issues is important for the economy and there are so many areas to cover.

What excites me most is when I visit schools with our books and see the immediate impact it has on children’s views and perceptions of certain careers.

For both engineering and the books, I enjoy seeing my work and ideas come to life in order to solve a problem.

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