As a qualified building services engineer Anni Folan-White is one of a handful of women visible on building sites in and around Cambridgeshire. Now, she’s just made Partner here at Ingleton Wood.
The mother of two, who lives in Cambridge, has spent years working her way up the ranks to reach the top job at our office there.
She confesses that her childhood wasn’t peppered with countless memories of dismantling household electrical items, but she clearly recalls rewiring a plug on an iron when she was ten.
“I was a studious but inquisitive child and I loved chemistry and physics at school,” she said.
It was a chance opportunity to test herself at an Eastern Electricity assessment on her way to a cinema with friends that gave Anni her own ‘lightbulb’ moment.
“I did quite well at it, and it got me thinking about electrical engineering as a career,” she said.
Anni, 47, who took on her first mortgage when she was 18, wrote to all the electrical engineering companies in the Yellow Pages in Cambridge for a job: “There were 64 that I wrote to and only two replied.”
She was taken on as an apprentice with Jakubowski Builders in Fulbourn, Cambridge, back in 1988 after initially attending Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University) for a year.
Anni later moved to Drake & Scull Mechanical and Electrical engineering firm, which sponsored her to gain her degree in Electrical and Electronic engineering and she then went on to do a master’s in Building Services through the Open University.
All of this conducted while raising two children, who have now grown up: “It had its difficulties. It was always a bit of a race to pick them up after work. There were more childminders around than nurseries, but mobile phones were only just becoming available, so everything had to be arranged in advance.”
She jokes that one of the benefits is no queue for the ladies toilets when she attends corporate engineering events such as those staged by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.
She also admits that once or twice she has been confused for someone taking the minutes of a meeting, which always makes her smile as she says she is a terrible typist.
On being made partner she said: “Like many women of my generation, I never expected to become one of the bosses, but as you go through life you start to ask yourself ‘why not?’.
“I love what I do, and I work with a great team and for an exceptional forward-thinking company. It’s so gratifying to have your work recognised in this way.”